Google and Censorship

Do you believe #1- Google was right in entering the Chinese market but should have ignored the Chinese government’s demands to censor search results (the “ugly American” theory), or do you think #2- Google should never have entered the Chinese market?

If you agree with #1 (which I sincerely doubt):
You’re sadly mistaken. A single company simply cannot ignore the control that the Chinese government has, or try to change their policies. Philipp Lenssen writes, “People opposing the Google decision don’t ask Google to crusade against the Chinese gov’t – people are asking from Google to *not actively partner with the Chinese government*. There’s an important difference here.” And the difference is very important. If you are jumping on the Google-is-evil bandwagon, please at least do a little thinking and stop believing in this overreactive idea. At least be somewhat reasonable and go to #2.

If you agree with #2:
So you think Google should not have entered the Chinese market. Are you saying this choice is what Google should do to best serve those in China? Or are you saying this choice is what Google should do to best serve you, as an American?

If you’re saying that this choice benefits those in China (which I sincerely doubt), you’re mistaken again. All of the other big search engine companies that matter have agreed to comply with the Chinese government and as a result are censoring results. You use Google because you believe it to be the best search engine. It’s fair to say that a censored Google Search is superior to a censored MSN or Yahoo! Search. So how does denying China of a superior search engine benefit them? This obviously doesn’t make sense. You should believe the alternative. If Google would’ve stayed out of China, it would benefit you, as an American:

You believe Google should have stayed out of China to benefit you, as an American. Google is evil because they used to stand for freedom of speech, and they’ve betrayed your trust. You used to view Google as an authority. If you wanted to know the answer to any question, you could Googlit and it would help you find the answer.

But now, you can’t trust Google’s response. For some reason, you believe that Google will censor results in America! You’re afraid of being deceived. You can’t trust someone or something that has deceived you in the past. And since Google is censoring results in China, you can’t trust it to give uncensored results in America.

This is why your logic is flawed. Google is not attempting to deceive anyone. You’ll notice that they’re willing to put up a notice when they remove search results. From their Help Center:

“When we remove search results for these reasons, we display a notice on our search results pages. Please note: For some older removals (before March 2005), we may not show a notice at this time.”

For an example of a Google China search where Google shows this notice, see this translated page for a search for tiananmen square massacre.

Again, I suggest that Google’s plan here is not to deceive anyone. It’s completely overreactive to believe that they’re purposefully trying to deceive. However, I think Google could do a better job at making it clear when search results have been removed. My suggestion is this:

When search results are removed, instead of a notice to the user to inform them of the modification, don’t display ANY search results at all. Instead, respond with a notice that the search was denied AND name the purpose for which they were denied. Something along the lines of, “This search cannot be completed because of local laws, regulations, or policies.” This would serve two purposes. It would make those of you who feel betrayed by Google more comfortable (you of little faith!), and it would be a subtle (probably not subtle enough :-D) rub against the Chinese government’s policy of censorship. If Google is forced to censor search results in any country, we deserve to know unmistakably that some results were removed and why.

UPDATE: The translated page for [tiananmen square massacre] doesn’t have the notice anymore. Strange. . . .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: