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Friday, January 27, 2006

Google's Censorship Blocks More Information Than Ever Before

It was clear from the beginning that Google's custom-built Chinese would block out "politically sensitive" searches on Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen, and other heavily censored topics from users inside Tibet and China. Google did their best to go beyond any previous censorship software by Microsoft and Yahoo and it looks like they've succeeded. It turns out Google.cn doesn't just stop at repressing political information and dissident sites, but actually prevents people inside Tibet and China from viewing sites about humor, alcohol, gay communities, news, and sexual education. CNet.com has the story, as well as a huge list of sites of this kind that Google blocks and Microsoft and Yahoo do not block.

Google's new China search engine not only censors many Web sites that question the Chinese government, but it goes further than similar services from Microsoft and Yahoo by targeting teen pregnancy, homosexuality, dating, beer and jokes.

In addition, CNET News.com has found that contrary to Google co-founder Sergey Brin's promise to inform users when their search results are censored, the company frequently filters out sites without revealing it.

[...]

The results showed that Google blocked the most sites, filtering out about 13 percent of the host names tested compared with MSN's 10 percent. But while both MSN and Google deleted pornography and political sites from search listings, Google also singled out more humor sites and more sites related to homosexuality--and it was the only search engine to block information related to alcohol, dating and marijuana.

[...]

Mickey Spiegel, senior researcher in the Asia division of Human Rights Watch (blocked by Google and Yahoo but not Microsoft), said Google.cn was "a step backwards in terms of freedom of expression issues."

"It will leave the Chinese populace with less and less ability to, in a sense, think for themselves about some of the issues facing them today," Spiegel said. "They are going to have a restricted diet of info, and that is going to color how they view the world. It's a big story, and it's a stain on their image."

Here are the specifics on google.cn's blocking of information on Tibet. Warning, Google defenders, these are 100% damning.

It's not just Google's Web search site that looks different to Chinese users. A search for "Tibet" on Google News through the Google.com site shows links to articles about a benefit for Tibet House, a speech by exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, and at the fifth spot, a story about the Chinese government censoring information.

That's a sharp contrast with news search results on Google.cn. In English, a search there for news articles about Tibet brings up four results: one about archaeology in Tibet, one with translations of seemingly random sentences, a girl's blog about her first love, and a news story about camel farming that mentions Tibet once. Using Chinese characters to search for "Tibet" news on Google.cn brought up thousands of sites but none among the top 10 results that mentioned Google, Chinese censorship or anything controversial.

A search on news at Google.cn for "Tibet" and "freedom" in English returned no results, while 144 appeared with the same search on Google.com.

This is inexcusable. Google squashed the ability of advocates for democracy, human rights, and self-determination inside Tibet and China to access information available to the free world through regular Google searches. Not only that, they're assisting China in repressing information about health care and social outlets, they're blocking online communities, and they're enabling homophobic bigotry. By my count that makes Google complicit in the repression of free speech, free assembly, free press, freedom of religion, freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality, and even freedom to have a good time.

Google thinks it's OK for the Chinese government to starve people from the truth. They're comfortable assisting the Chinese Communist Party to spin their web of propaganda so tight people can't turn their heads to the truth -- and they're making huge profits while doing it. Google needs to end it's partnership with China and stop spreading propaganda as if it were truth. Their censorship and disinformation is nothing short of evil hypocrisy.

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