Google vs. China

By Elizabeth Held
Friday, January 15, 2010

If you perform a Google image search for “Tiananmen Square,” the first five results are the iconic image of the tanks lined up in the street.

If you perform the same search in China, that image or anything depicting violence never appears in the results.

China is known for its strict censorship policies, especially regarding search engines.

But on Tuesday, Google began fighting back. The company posted a message on its Web site explaining that back in December a hacker from China was able to access their Web site. They write, “However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident -- albeit a significant one -- was something quite different.”

For one, a wide range of companies were subject to this hacking. And secondly, Google believes the hacker's ultimate goal was to access Gmail accounts of human rights activists. As part of their investigation, Google discovered that “dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.“
You can read the full statement HERE.

As many of you know, I consider censorship one of the evils remaining in our society. But even if you’re not as concerned with censorship as I am, I think it's hard to find China’s policies as anything but disconcerting. Not only do you not have the right to express contrarian viewpoints in public, a private forum, your own email account, is no longer safe.

It’s disturbing.

Google made the decision to stop censoring their Web site.

They write, “We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”

There are obvious flaws with their logic. One, it’s not like human rights abuses are anything new in China. Two, the company says they’re willing to figure out how to run an “unfiltered search engine within the law.” There is no such thing in China.

But, I hope it’s a start. Free trade of information allows for a society to grow and develop. Blocking search engines blocks growth.

What do you think about Google’s decision? On par? To little too late? Or just unnecessary?

One other thing, as the horror continues in Haiti, the Red Cross is collecting funds to help support their relief efforts. The group estimates that a third of the Haitian population will need emergency relief. If you want to make a $10 donation to the Red Cross, text “Haiti” to the number 90999. The cost will be added to your next cell-phone bill. You can do this regardless of your cell provider. All the funds will go directly to the Red Cross. As of Tuesday, over $1 million dollars had been donated this way.

 

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