Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Ohnoo!

I find this disturbing. Even though both Yahoo ! and Google are allowed to support the Chinese government, it doesn't mean that they should. First of all, supporting a repressive government, of any sort, is morally wrong. Secondly, people uses both Yahoo ! and Google to find information. If the information is believed to be "tainted" or if it is unavailable, people will most likely use another search engine if possible. In other words, there might be a short-run profit to make, but not necessarily a long-run profit.

From Reporters sans frontières(Reporters without borders).

..."irresponsible" policies of major US Internet firms Yahoo ! and Google in bowing directly and indirectly to Chinese government demands for censorship and called for a code of conduct to be imposed.

Yahoo ! has been censoring its Chinese-language search-engine for several years and rival firm Google, which recently took a share in Baidu, a Chinese search-engine that filters a user's findings, seems ready to go the same way. In their efforts to conquer the Chinese market, the two firms are "making compromises that directly threaten freedom of expression"

...

Some combined key-word searches, such as "Free Tibet," do not display any results. For others, only official sites appear. The top results of a search for 'Falungong" produces only sites critical of the Chinese spiritual movement in line with the regime's position. The same search using a non-censored search-engine turns up material supporting Falungong and about the government's repression of its followers.

Google has so far refused to censor its search-engine and access to it was blocked for a week in September 2002 by the Chinese authorities, who are currently obliged to filter its search results by themselves, which is more difficult and less effective.

Google now seems to have changed tack. In June this year, it acquired a substantial share in one of China's biggest search-engines, Baidu, which carefully filters out all "subversive" content. When Google was blocked in 2002, Chinese Internet users were redirected to baidu.com. A search in Baidu for "Huang Qi," a cyber-dissident imprisoned for posting criticism of the government online, produced : "This document contains no data," even though hundreds of articles in Chinese have been posted about him.

A search for "independence Taiwan" shows only sites critical of the island's government, while Google's Chinese version (www.google.com/intl/zh-CN[that page doesn't seem to exists/Dennis]), which is not censored, comes up with pro-Taiwan sites.