Google’s new China focused portal, Google.cn has been roundly and rightly criticized for censoring results shown in China at the request of the repressive Chinese regime. The absence of material deemed dangerous by the Chinese authorities leaves search results that tell the “right-side” of the story. This is the material open to viewing Chinese citizens.
In an interesting post to the Google Blogoscope (no relation to Google Inc), Philipp Lenssen displays results from 15 experimental searches he conducted using Google.com (US and International) and Google.cn (Google China). Though Philipp didn’t make the connection in writing, the results generated clearly show Google not only censors results, it is acting as a propaganda arm of the Chinese government.
Google’s senior policy counsel, Andrew McLaughlin, says that “while removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.”
That may be true however a glance at the results generated in Philipp’s research shows the distinct use of words such as “tragic”, “heretical” and “cult” to describe the spiritual meditation group Falun Gong. A second look shows similar issues surrounding Tibet, human rights groups and even the American Dream as expressed by Hugh Heffner’s Playboy magazine.
Google is not only helping limit access to information, it is actively (though perhaps inadvertently) helping the Chinese Government deliver a very limited view of the world. By censoring the Chinese web experience, it is acting as a propaganda distributor for of the Chinese Government.
Already, protests have formed around Google’s decision to honour the Chinese Government’s requirement that Google self-censor search results. About twenty members of Students for a Free Tibet marched in front of Google’s Mountain View CA headquarters on Wednesday. More troubling than a score of protesters is a growing movement among Bloggers to remove Google AdSense advertising from their websites.
Earlier today, Google removed a section addressing censorship from its website. Where it used to say,
“Google does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results.”
It now says: Document Not Found.
There’s a lot of that going around these days.