Google blog tries to explain the censorship of Google News in China

And I have to say, it rings mighty hollow to me. (I know this is a couple days old but I just got around to it.)

This was a difficult decision for Google, and we would like to share the factors we considered before taking this course of action.

Google is committed to providing easy access to as much information as possible. For Internet users in China, Google remains the only major search engine that does not censor any web pages. However, it’s clear that search results deemed to be sensitive for political or other reasons are inaccessible within China. There is nothing Google can do about this.

For last week’s launch of the Chinese-language edition of Google News, we had to decide whether sources that cannot be viewed in China should be included for Google News users inside the PRC. Naturally, we want to present as broad a range of news sources as possible. For every edition of Google News, in every language, we attempt to select news sources without regard to political viewpoint or ideology. For Internet users in China, we had to consider the fact that some sources are entirely blocked. Leaving aside the politics, that presents us with a serious user experience problem. Google News does not show news stories, but rather links to news stories. So links to stories published by blocked news sources would not work for users inside the PRC — if they clicked on a headline from a blocked source, they would get an error page. It is possible that there would be some small user value to just seeing the headlines. However, simply showing these headlines would likely result in Google News being blocked altogether in China.

We also considered the amount of information that would be omitted. In this case it is less than two percent of Chinese news sources. On balance we believe that having a service with links that work and omits a fractional number is better than having a service that is not available at all. It was a difficult tradeoff for us to make, but the one we felt ultimately serves the best interests of our users located in China. We appreciate your feedback on this issue.

Having worked closely with Google on their public relations in China (are you there, Debbie?), I’m not surprised at this rather slick and vacuous excuse. Other search engines you can access in China give the links, and if those links cannot be accessed, it’s the user’s headache. But at least the user then has the link, so they can look it up using a proxy server or whatever tool they use to get under the Great CyberNanny’s skirt. To refuse to offer the link is, in effect, kissing the CyberNanny’s ass.

This is pure bullshit. Now, I can’t say exactly who you can write to at Google to express your opinion, but you may want to try

google blog.gif

UPDATE: Be sure to see Adam’s letter to google — and then write your own!

The Discussion: 6 Comments

Open letter to Google.

To whom it may concern: “For Internet users in China, we had to consider the fact that some sources are entirely blocked. Leaving aside the politics, that presents us with a serious user experience problem.” No it’s not. Haven’t you ever heard of ssh? …

October 2, 2004 @ 1:53 am | Comment

Sorry, but could I get confirmation from someone: the news sites are blocked for the Chinese edition of Google news. But Google also offers news for Taiwan and Hong Kong; are these sites censored as well just to meet the sensibilities of the Chinese Nationalist Fascist Party?

October 2, 2004 @ 8:47 am | Comment

At least having access to China means that when the country eventually does loosen up a bit, google will have the infrastructure in place to open up as well. It’s better to have limited access now and full access later than to stick your head in the sand and give no access at all.

October 3, 2004 @ 1:04 am | Comment

U.S. Judge Orders Release of Lennon FBI Files – he

A federal judge has ordered the FBI to turn over files on John Lennon to a California professor who said the documents show Britain’s domestic spy agency shadowed the late Beatle’s political activities….

…Freedom of information is a hard won a…

October 3, 2004 @ 2:06 am | Comment

Bittorrent News

bittorrent site gets raided by FBI and ICE!

May 27, 2005 @ 1:09 am | Comment

(In response to ACB)

Yes we all appreciate baby steps, but Google’s truly vacuous excuse is offensive on several levels and as such, cannot be accepted or written off. No one is asking Google to boycott the Chinese market instead of submitting to the CyberNanny. We just want them to operate in the same way as they do all over the world. If that means posting dead links on their searches, then that’s what they have to do. It is only in this way, however gradually it might happen, that they’re going to fulfill their manifest destiny as harbingers of the free world, to put it grandly. However, thier refusal to post the forbidden headlines at all, functioning link or no, is offensive to the technological capabilities of their users who, as TPD pointed out, probably posess the skills to get around the dead links. It is also offensive to the users’ political sensibilities because really, why do you think they’re looking to GoogleNews in the first place? Google’s willingness to cooperate with Chinese censors is more deeply offensive in that Google, as an American company, should not under any circumstances be collaborating with a totalitarian regime!! This is just to hazard a guess, and I haven’t adjusted my guess for population size, but China’s human and civil rights record probably ranks somewhere near that of pre-war Iraq. Google’s and other internet companies’ such as Yahoo Cisco Systems (see monbiot’s web page) complicity with China’s censorship policies, which do nothing less than support and perpetuate a system of government dedicated to the opposite of freedom and democracy, throw the entirety of American foreign policy into a light which no one should ignore or let others ignore. In this light we see the complete bankruptcy of America’s claims to desire freedom and democracy to spread all over the world. This rhetoric is meagre cover for the talons of American commercial interests. Obviously our current American regime views all foreigners as something less than human, that we may unscrupulously topple one dictator and throw the lives of millions of people into complete miserable chaos in the name of Democracy and Freedom, at the same time that American companies dutifully comply with and enhance the dictatorial tools of another. Google is teaching us that democracy and freedom in contemporary American foreign policy rhetoric are a complete and total lie. Now that is offensive, and we cannot ignore it.

September 13, 2005 @ 11:31 am | Comment

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