Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Background to the Google Censorship Issue in China

Search engine giant Google has come in for a lot of criticism since it was revealed recently that its new Google China site is heavily censored.

Google rivals Yahoo and Microsoft already use censorship in China. Chinese Internet surfers using the search engines of these companies will be unlikely to find material on the Tien An Men massacre of 1989, Tibet, human rights or Falun Gong.

Google China surfers will not be allowed to visit sites such as BBC News or Human Rights Watch. Alcohol, lingerie, and dating sites, however, will be kosher.

Freedom of speech? Forget it! Booze and babes? No problem.

For some context, University of Toronto Munk Centre for International Studies professor Nart Villeneuve has just published an article in the January 2006 edition of First Monday, a peer-reviewed journal about Internet issue.

The article is entitled The filtering matrix: Integrated mechanisms of information control and the demarcation of borders in cyberspace. It explores how the implementation of filtering technologies by governments, in particular authoritarian and repressive ones, is increasingly used to control political dissent and suppress civil liberties.

More information on the Google China issue:

  • China: Internet companies assist censorship (Amnesty International): "Whether succumbing to demands from Chinese officials or anticipating government concerns, companies that impose restrictions that infringe on human rights are being extremely short-sighted. The agreements the industry enters into with the Chinese government, whether tacit or written, go against the IT industry’s claim that it promotes the right to freedom of information of all people, at all times, everywhere."
  • Google Now Censoring In China (SearchEngineWatch): "Less than a week after we hear that Google is ready to fight the US government in part to defend its users, now comes news that Google will cave into the Chinese government's demands for its new Google China web site. However, the issues aren't directly comparable. Moreover, while I'm no fan of Chinese censorship, I like some of the way Google is reacting to the demands. Come along, and we'll explore the entire censorship situation in China, the US and some other places you rarely hear discussed, like France and Germany."
  • Do Internet companies need to be regulated to ensure they respect free expression? (Reporters Without Borders): "The recent case of Microsoft closing down a journalist’s blog under pressure from the Chinese authorities once again shows that some Internet sector companies do not respect freedom of expression when operating in repressive countries. Reporters Without Borders proposes six concrete ways to make these companies behave ethically. These recommendations are addressed to the US government and US legislators because all the companies named in this document are based in the United States. "
  • Google launches censored version of its search-engine (Reporters Without Borders): "By offering a version without 'subversive' content, Google is making it easier for Chinese officials to filter the Internet themselves. A website not listed by search-engines has little chance of being found by users. The new Google version means that even if a human rights publication is not blocked by local firewalls, it has no chance of being read in China."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:38 pm


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