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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

G$$gle Making Bad Situation Worse

Let's be clear: Google hasn't created a bad situation, it's made a bad situation worse. Apparently, though, Google thinks explicitly presenting people with falsehoods or the wrong information is a good thing for people inside of China and Tibet.
"Google.cn will "provide meaningful benefits to Chinese Internet users," said Google senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin, referring to the company's new China site.
I'm guessing McLaughlin was only thinking of internet users who work for the Chinese Communist Party and have a vested interest in preventing Tibetans and Chinese citizens alike from having free access to information. Any suggestion that Google's filtering of 1,000+ "politically sensitive" search terms is good for users inside China is patently false and antithetical to Google's accurate assesment that "the need for information crosses all borders." That statement was once true, but now clearly needs to be amended to read "the need for information crosses all borders except those guarded by Chinese tyrants and their Google guard dogs."

Besides being a shill for Google's anti-democratic censorship deal with China, McLaughlin is a senior fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. You'd think with credentials like that McLaughlin would have taken the time to read the report by his colleague at the Berkman Center, John Palfry. Palfry's report, written for the Open Net Initiative, is called Internet Filtering in China 2004-2005, finds massive restrictions of access to both websites and searches for information about a wide array of subjects. After detailing hundreds of blocked websites and Google search results, Palfry concludes:

China’s intricate technical filtering regime is buttressed by an equally complex series of laws and regulations that control the access to and publication of material online. While no single statute specifically describes the manner in which the state will carry out its filtering regime, a broad range of laws – including media regulation, protections of “state secrets,” controls on Internet service providers and Internet content providers, laws specific to cybercafés, and so forth – provide a patchwork series of rationales and, in sum, massive legal support for filtering by the state. The rights afforded to citizens as protection against filtering and surveillance, such as a limited privacy right in the Chinese Constitution, which otherwise might provide a counter-balance against state action on filtering and surveillance, are not clearly stated and are likely considered by the state to be inapplicable in this context.

China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated, and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world. The implications of this distorted on-line information environment for China’s users are profound, and disturbing.

[...]

Importantly, China’s filtering efforts lack transparency: the state does not generally admit to censoring Internet content, and concomitantly there is no list of banned sites and no ability for citizens to request reconsideration of blocking, as some other states that filter provide. The topics defined as sensitive, or prohibited, by China’s legal code are broad and non-specific, and enforcement of laws such as the ban on spreading state secrets discourages citizens from testing the boundaries of these areas. China’s legal and technological systems combine to form a broad, potent, and effective means of controlling the information that Chinese users can see and share on the Internet.

[...]

While there can be legitimate debates about whether democratization and liberalization are taking place in China’s economy and government, there is no doubt that neither is taking place in China’s Internet environment today.

This was before Google started to actively block the truth from people inside of China. Now not only will China's army of 300,000 plus internet police - newly branded as adorbale doe-eyed cartoon characters - be shutting down "politically sensitive" websites, blogs, emails, and searches, but they'll have Google's powerful tools working according to their rules. Palfry's study notes the success rate of Google searches inside China before the launch of google.cn and finds, depending on the term, blockage rates as high as 93% of what's normally accessible outside of China. Today searches for "Falun Gong" and "Tibet" turn up only sites approved by the Chinese Communist Party and Google filters out the rest. The truth is no longer just difficult to access, but searches for the truth lead directly to falsehood and propaganda.

Google clearly doesn't understand this. They've subverted the prospects of democracy and liberalization reaching China through the internet. They've blocked the Tibetan people from finding strength and solidarity with exile communities. Google has facilitated China's repression of its people. By caving to the CCP authorities demands for assistance in censoring the free flow of information, Google has facilitated China's repression of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Catholics, democracy advocates, the Falun Gong, and the supporters of Taiwanese independence.

Andrew McLaughlin has lied to the press about the effect of Google's actions and he is indicative of Google's hypocrisy. You can email McLaughlin to tell him what you think about his shilling for China's tools of oppression with the information below.

Contact:
Andrew McLaughlin
Senior Policy Counsel of Google
mclaughlin@pobox.com

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