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Dissecting Localized Google Censorship 261

Posted by timothy
from the bowlderization dept.
carpe_noctem writes "Linuxsecurity.com has a link to a rather interesting story regarding Google's use of localized censorship. While not much information is given from the political side of why Google might be censoring information likely to annoy certain governments, it certainly isn't the first time Google has come under fire for censoring results on account of external pressures. Makes one wonder how many pages get filtered out around the world."
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Dissecting Localized Google Censorship

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:02PM (#5531650)
    Not a government. Who cares if they choose to censor things in order to make their business stronger/more profitable? If they don't censor it, they'll get locked out of those countries or censored by a third party, which is even less likely to be accurate. Fight government censorship, that's the real problem.
    • by WotanKhan (150429) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:13PM (#5531773) Homepage
      I care, esp. if it affects my attempts to retrieve information. Corporate censorship can be harmful too, and the way to combat it is by exposing it, and letting it affect customer patronage.
      • That's the beauty of capitalism, especially on the (relatively) level playing field of the net. Google is a business, and they are free to pursue strategy X in their quest for money so long as they do not violate the law in doing so. In the same way, customers are free to reward or punish Google for choosing strategy X by patronizing or not patronizing their services. And, should you desire to do so, you are free to start a competing search service which applies strategy Y instead, at which point the fre
    • by Cyberdyne (104305) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:13PM (#5531775) Journal
      Not a government. Who cares if they choose to censor things in order to make their business stronger/more profitable? If they don't censor it, they'll get locked out of those countries or censored by a third party, which is even less likely to be accurate. Fight government censorship, that's the real problem.

      I agree that Google's own filtering is OK - for one thing, almost by definition they do it to improve the search engine, rather than to achieve some nefarious goal. However, the exclusion of Stormfront [stormfront.org]'s pages from the German view only? Given the nature of their site (a "White Nationalist Resource Page", for those too scared or monitored to look for yourselves), I suspect very strongly this is the result of German government censorship. I expect either Google did it themselves, to prevent attacks from the German government, or they were forced to do so by said government.

      It's possible this is some sort of moral judgement by Google themselves - except then, why would they suppress the site only from the German view, not the main index?! No, this smells to me very much like government censorship; Germany's approach to free speech seems to be "Say what you want. As long as it doesn't promote political views we don't like, question our official version of history..."

      • by Ravenscall (12240) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:28PM (#5531918)
        Well, see, I see a problem here. What if Google decided to make only Google.com the result for any search on Search Engines?

        Or what if (since I am in the US), I did a Search for Democratic Presidential Candidates, and only got George W Bush as a result?

        Corporate censorship is oftentimes more insidious in that Government, because the Government has very clear lines on what should be censored and for whom (Not that I agree with it, but generally, saying no porn for the kiddies is a good idea)

        Corporations have no such compunctions, thier censorship is based on thier own bottom line. Nothing more, nothing less.
        • by radish (98371) on Monday March 17, 2003 @06:16PM (#5532340) Homepage
          Google is not the truth, and Google is not the internet. If you did a search for Democratic Candidates and Google returned Ronald McDonald then that's their right. It doesn't make that accurate or anything, but it also doesn't make it censorship. There's no contract between you and them. You stick a word into their system and they return some results - there's no real reason why they should be in any way connected.

          Ford won't sell you a car in the colour you want? Buy something else. Burger King won't let you have it your way? Go to McD. Don't like Google's results? Search elsewhere.
          • There's no contract between you and them

            There's also no contract between you and ANYBODY. Contract law? That's a result of bills passed by Congress, itself a result of the Constitution, which was the end result of the Constitutional convention, which resulted from a declaration a few years before that stated (among other things) "We hold these truths self-evident..." The formation of the USA and its legal foundation had the notion of natural rights as a heavy influence. The government doesn't censor, tort
            • The implicit statement in clicking the search button is "I want an unbiased, and, to the best of your ability, a complete list of sites on this subject." For Google to censor their list is perfectly acceptable IF they state that they are doing so..."Twelve sites not listed because your government does not wish to do so."


              That's what you read as the "implicit statement". Where on the site does it claim to be impartial? or fair? or balanced? I couldn't find it anywhere. Which means you are making the assump
        • by Snowspinner (627098) <{ude.lfu} {ta} {dnaslihp}> on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:31PM (#5532888) Homepage
          The issue is that they censored Stormfront because, if they didn't, the German government would sue their ass.

          That's very different from a moral censorship. As the post you totally ignored while replying to pointed out, if it were a moral censorship, why would they block it only in Germany?
          • If they're filtering out Stormfront on the German-language pages and not the English ones, presumably that means any German with enough English skills for Googling will find it.

            Considering Germans, *especially* neo-Nazi types, are well aware of the censorship laws, it seems reasonable that they would be Googling in English in the first place, whether for research or for Skinhead Love.

            Censoring by language might (weakly) pass as a good-faith effort, but if they really want to comply with German censor

        • Corporate censorship is oftentimes more insidious in that Government,

          Sometimes it's hard to find a distinction. Especially where corporates have undue inflence over government.

          because the Government has very clear lines on what should be censored and for whom.

          At least in theory. That dosn't stop them interpreting "national security" to mean whatever is in the interests of the "government of the day" or even whatever is in the interests of certain government officials. (The latter including covering up
      • by SquadBoy (167263) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:30PM (#5531936) Homepage Journal
        Yes because it is banned in Germany. So they don't want to get into a fight with the German government so the comply with the laws of the land. The Germans need to work on changing Germany not Google. So I must be missing something cause I really don't see your point as it seems like the parent post, you and I are all thinking the same thing but you sound like you think you disagree.
      • I expect either Google did it themselves, to prevent attacks from the German government, or they were forced to do so by said government.

        You may be right with the former, but we know it definitively only after google says they did so. But there are no laws which force search-engines to suppress specific search results. There are indeed laws which obligate ISP to block access to sites with indictable content, as for exemaple denying the holocaust. But this law is very new and controversial, and there was n
        • Forgive my ignorance, but since when is hate speech illegal in the USA? (I know it's illegal in our great northern neighbor.)

          Libel and slander are illegal; copyright & trademark violations are illegal (where things are slanted a bit too much in corporate favour). But, hurting people's feelings is perfectly legal, as long as what you say is fact or opinion, and not a lie. And economic and reputational damage is legal, again, given that you aren't telling lies. (I can say that Eddie Murphy picked up
          • It seems that I didn't make that clear enough. Of course you can say anything you want as long it is true. And if you tell a lie you will be held responsible for resulting damage.

            The difference is made when someone expresses his opinion about the holocaust. Because if he denies is this would be counted as slander towards the victims. That's all. Maybe we shouldn't focus too much on terms.
    • by Dukeofshadows (607689) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:17PM (#5531805) Journal
      Certainly Google is a private company that can do as it damn well pleases. Yet it operates an international scope with several countries having their own laws on censorship that they feel must be obeyed for whatever reason. As long as the government tells people about the censorship, there's less of an argument than when a government claims to respect free speech outright then decieves its own people in practice. Note the author's example of stormfront.org, a site that would test the boundaries between free speech and incitive speech.

      Here in the US we have faced the same problem when Klan or other sites tried to get attention. If there are public decency laws are in place, how is it possible to both follow those laws (regardless of whether we think those laws are just or not) and provide free content? Should a whole country or region get a different search engine result based on its laws? In short, yes. To try and espouse American ideals to the planet doesn't work as the recent UN vote clearly shows. We don't have to agree with them, but they have a right to speak and vote regardless of what we think. Google has a responsibility as a multinational company to obey the laws of the countries it operates in, and given the legal right of people to sue internet companies according to the laws of their own country (Australia has a case like this), they damn well better learn what rules they need to play by.

      It is somewhat loathsome that censorship be brought about, especially because the same rights used by the hatemongers to spread their intellectual bile is the same one I use to post here in disagreeance with their thoughts and, occasionally, the politics of the world at large. And anyone in the United States should also be guarding every right they have with vigilance given the blatant thirst for power of our current regime and their willingness to intrude on our rights and lives in the name of "security". Again, we should protect our rights here in the US and ensure that Google does the same by following the laws of other countries.

      May the question of free speech and its legality in the face of "terrorism" never turn into a possible threat against the 1st amendment here in the US, lest we have to resort to the 2nd amendment to defend both...
    • There come times when things are no as longer black and white as you would like them to be.

      Google's role in society is no longer one of profit, it has become the navigator for millions of people to access free information. With great power comes great responsiblity.

      Therefore, as human beings, those who run google have moral and ethical obligations to protect the free flow of information.

      It may be legal for them to censor, but it is wrong as it damages the exchange of ideas which promote thought and free
      • by cheezedawg (413482) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:25PM (#5531892) Journal
        So is forcing a private company to post information that it doesn't want to post your idea of 'freedom'?
        • by Qzukk (229616)
          I would say that given the fact that the sites are only censored in certain regions, google must want to post them. After all if they didn't want to post them, these wouldn't appear anywhere in the world.

          Oh wait, we're making the mistake of attributing "wanting" of something that wasn't a liquid asset. After all, companies in the US are expected to be money grubbing, coldhearted, amoral (or is that "immoral" in the light of Enron?) bastards who don't give a shit about anything but money, Money, MONEY $$$
        • by blamanj (253811) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:37PM (#5531994)
          No one has proposed "forcing" anything. What these people are doing is merely to inform. All they are saying is that Google does not behave in a way that they believe or may be led to believe. This is a tremendously important thing to do, whether or not it results in any changes, because of the role Google has in the internet community.

          We should never blindly support any entity, corporate, religious, or governmental. These people are merely providing a view to what might otherwise go unseen.
      • Despite the standing of a corporation as a "person" as far as legal issues is concerned. They are not a person. Ethics is conveniently hidden behind the corporation mask.

        Don't take this to mean I am against corporations, The Man(tm), and capitalism in general.

        I just don't think that it is possible to expect something specific to a human from a corporation, despite being run by humans. Unless the corporation itself developes inteligence and self awareness, then it is just a name on paper and has no "eth
      • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:33PM (#5531954)
        Therefore, as human beings, those who run google have moral and ethical obligations to protect the free flow of information.
        Ahh, bullshit.

        The purpose of Google is too limit the flow of information. Yes, that is there state entire purpose.

        Google is not BLOCKING you from visiting this site. Google only reports what it has in its index relevant to what you asked for in the context of where you are. That's all. It's whole job is too discriminate information. The goal of Google is to censor bad, irrelevant information from the good, useful information.

        What Google is doing is so far from censorship as to be an abhorrent use of the word. They have decided in certain cases to not directly publish links to illegal content.

        It may be legal for them to censor, but it is wrong as it damages the exchange of ideas which promote thought and freedom.
        In fact, it may be ILLEGAL for them to NOT censor.

        If you have beef, take it up with Germany. Google here is doing what is required of them, and that's all you can reasonably ask. I'm sure Google would like nothing more than to be able to abandon this sillyness.
        • An analogy that I think is useful:

          The phone company provides a free servide - the PHONE BOOK, which lists 'all' of the phone numbers. However, some phone numbers are not included because those people have unpopular views. Therefore, you can't call them because you don't know the number, even if they would welcome your call.

          (NOTE: this analogy ignores people who have unlisted numbers out of choice).

          Wow - that sounds a lot more subversive than the way some are spinning it, huh?
          • by jtdubs (61885) on Monday March 17, 2003 @06:45PM (#5532564)
            Let's try THIS analogy:

            A single company publishes phonebooks in every country in the world.

            Some country, x, makes either certain content or specific phone numbers illegal.

            The company then goes out of it's way to obey local laws by presenting different information based on your geographic location, so as not to have their entire service banned in that country.

            Google is not filtering "unpopular views" in the case of Germany. They are filtering "illegal views." You'll notice they don't do any content filtering in the US, aside from the filtering done to provide "better" results (ie. filtering out searchking).

            Germany is fucked up. So is most of the world. People in the US don't realize how lucky they are to have a Constitution giving them protected freedoms. Europeans have no such luck.

            Most European government's constitution's read:

            "You have permission to do specific activities x, y and z until such a time that the government chooses to pass laws restricting said activities."

            Scary shit.

            Justin Dubs
          • Find me a phone book with the number for the Ku Klux Klan please.....
      • Google's role in society is no longer one of profit, it has become the navigator for millions of people to access free information. With great power comes great responsiblity.

        I totally agree with this. After all, Google has become a monopoly of sorts, and so one would hope that they become a benevolent dictator, rather than taking the road of some other recent monopolies...

        I realize that as a multinational, Google has to deal with a lot of different governments who have different ideas about the Web's r

      • by Xerithane (13482) <xerithane AT nerdfarm DOT org> on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:44PM (#5532045) Homepage Journal
        Google's role in society is no longer one of profit, it has become the navigator for millions of people to access free information. With great power comes great responsiblity.

        This is fundamentally wrong. If it is a public tool, it should be paid for by tax dollars and be institutionalized by the government.

        Google is a company, and that is black and white. Regardless of ideological ideas of what a public tool should or should not do, it is there business what they do. People are not obligated to use Google, and Google is not obligated in any way to humor certain peoples thoughts on what is moral and just.

        Therefore, as human beings, those who run google have moral and ethical obligations to protect the free flow of information.

        At the sacrifice of their business? At which point does this free flow of information end? If someone posts a video of you doing something embarassing, is it your right to censor or attempt to? There is no moral obligation for any company to anybody outside of that company.

        It may be legal for them to censor, but it is wrong as it damages the exchange of ideas which promote thought and freedom.

        Take issue with the governments that require censorship, not with a tool that tries to reach as many people as possible. It's better that Google is available in China, even if it is censored, than if they don't have access to google at all.

        You are fighting the wrong people here. You are shooting the messenger.
        • This is fundamentally wrong. If it is a public tool, it should be paid for by tax dollars and be institutionalized by the government.

          The last thing I need is to not be able to find the DeCSS haiku because your government doesn't like it.:)
          • The last thing I need is to not be able to find the DeCSS haiku because your government doesn't like it.:)

            Ah, you are Canadian judging by your email address. You may not have an army, but at least you can view the DeCSS haiku and easily smack a french person.

            This is more of my point, Google isn't a public tool any more than any other internet site is. Especially not one that is more in debt to the US than to China. Yes, they are located in the US, but no, they don't need to cater to the whims of ideal
      • You know, if it only blocks results to certain regions, what's to keep someone from making a 'region-free' Google proxy and piping results to anyone who wants it?

      • What a load of baloney. Last I checked, Google's owners hadn't decided to give up their bottom line for some "public good."

        If you don't like the fact that Google obeys local laws--for example, banning Germans' access to results like Stormfront (a neo-Nazi website) which are banned by German Law, not by moral fiat--then use a different search engine. Altavista's still out there.

      • Therefore, as human beings, those who run google have moral and ethical obligations to protect the free flow of information

        I just can't agree with this. Unlike other replies, I do agree that it damages the exchange of ideas...sure they can still go to the site, but if they depend on google to find those sources, they will not know they exist. But if some government wants to ban a site that teaches you something rediculous, like how to abuse your children and not leave marks so you don't get caught, wou
      • This is such nonsense. Just because Google is popular does not make it a publiuc utility. If you don't liek the way Google filters its results, go use a different search engine. Google is a company. It's trying to make money, not promote the public good. If it can do both at the same time, great. If not, which do you think is going to be more important to the powers that be that run Google?
    • True; Google isn't a government. But, in a lot of important respects, it's the world. How do you find information on the web if not by using Google's search engine? There are other alternatives, but they all either suck, aren't as good, or are based off of technology licensed from google.

      I wish I didn't have to *remember* a time when Google was a company that did great things and never seemed to do anything wrong.
    • personally, I am more scared of corporate censorship than govermental, since (at least theoretically) I have influence on government, and there are many controls in place to prevent abuse of power. However, I do not have any direct influence on a company.
  • That China censors Google. ;)

    -Evan
    • mmm i am from australia but in china at the moment. the default google comes up in chinese but has no news tab. so i go to the .au site to get the news tab. even then the "great china firewall" prevents me from going to sites such as cnn, washington post, and many other news services. i think its a combination of google sillyness (to allow access in china) and the "great firewall" situations which must exist not only in china but elsewhere...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:03PM (#5531670)
    Use [excite.com] another [altavista.com] search [hotbot.com] engine [webcrawler.com] ! [lycos.com]
  • ./ "did some evil*" by criticizng the Almighty Goolgle.

    *Reference to the Wired article that said Google's "guiding principle" is to "do no evil".
  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:06PM (#5531708)
    my Nazi-Skinhead-Kiddy-Porn-Warez-Make Money Quick-How To Be A Terroist site gets filtered out pretty much everywhere, Google or otherwise.

    Ashcroft, NSA, FBI: This is only a joke done in poor taste. I don't have a site, much less with any of the above.
    Sucks having to put that kind of disclaimer on things....
    • if you are really worried that you have to put up a disclaimer, then you are doing something illegal. Believe me, they aren't going to waste their time tooling /. for kiddies...
    • my Nazi-Skinhead-Kiddy-Porn-Warez-Make Money Quick-How To Be A Terroist site gets filtered out pretty much everywhere, Google or otherwise.

      Nah, it's just because your name sounds French.
  • by BeerVarmint (553698) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:08PM (#5531727)
    Although google may seem like an angelic creation; it isn't. It is a real-world entity, subject to lawsuits and other real-world unpleasantness. Of everything out there; they are still the best option.

    Disclosure would be kinda nice though...

  • by Metallic Matty (579124) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:09PM (#5531730)
    Clearly, some government has a problem with my website, and has pressured google to censor it's existence through their searches!

    Crafty bastards..

    "Its not off topic; its humor."
  • by mgs1000 (583340) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:10PM (#5531747) Journal
    Nobody seemed to care when Cisco developed routers for the Chinese government that helped them spy on their own people's internet usage and squelch dissenters. So why would this be a big deal?
  • by Mononoke (88668) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:10PM (#5531748) Homepage Journal
    Sorry, but this is just one of the aspects of being a suppliers of goods and services across the globe. Local governments, customs, and/or religions will always have the final say on what can be brought into their county (either as items or information). If you want your services to be welcome in that country, you've got to play by their rules.

    No one is (legally) selling vodka in Saudi Arabia.
    No one is (legally) selling swastikas in Germany.
    Etcetera.

    Google is just doing their best to play by the rules. Successfully, apparently.

  • ... that is why my page about the Wonderful World of Hamsters
    is not the number one result on all searches.

    I knew there was a reason ;o)
  • Utopian Theory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rwiedower (572254) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:14PM (#5531777) Homepage
    Conclusion

    Contrary to earlier utopian theories of the Internet, it takes very little effort for governments to cause certain information simply to vanish for a huge number of people.

    I'm not sure that this conclusion can be taken very seriously. First of all, it posits "earlier utopian theories of the Internet" and doesn't back up such a claim with any data. What were these theories, and how do they apply to Google's behavior? Second, the author claims that "very little effort" was made on behalf of certain governments to remove information. In the case study of the town of Chester, the information was removed at the behest of a local authority, not a national government. Thirdly, the information didn't "vanish" as the author suggested. If it had been completely removed from google, no traces would exist. And since google is under no obligation to store all the copies of web pages it indexes, claiming that the information "vanished" misinterprets how google stores the information to begin with. The site in question should be the focus, not google's cacheing mechanism.

    • You don't remember all the Wired magazine articles about how this wonderful new thing called the "World Wide Web" was going to knock down governments and topple old customs and basically cause revolutions around the world? It was supposed to destroy China's tyrannical regime and expose all sorts of injustices and affect social change.

      You're honestly saying you don't remember any of that or the deafening silence when none of that happened? (One exceptional exception to this can be South Korea's recent Prime
    • "In the case study of the town of Chester, the information was removed at the behest of a local authority, not a national government."

      and the difference is? whether is a police man censoring, or the leader of a country, it is still government censorship.

      "Thirdly, the information didn't "vanish" as the author suggested. If it had been completely removed from google, no traces would exist. And since google is under no obligation to store all the copies of web pages it indexes, claiming that the information
  • Server Crash ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by subri (658313) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:14PM (#5531781) Homepage
    I have seen times when I search for some topics which could be construed as offensive, Google will report a "Server Error". Funny it never happens when I search for Java or Linux! I am almost positive this is one mechanism of censoring that they adopt!
  • Other search engines can't possibly all be doing this kind of thing. And if that's the case I have to wonder: who cares if Google's censoring? There are other decent engines out there to use, so use them instead. What engines do others use? I occasionally used Altavista and Hotbot.
  • by robi2106 (464558) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:20PM (#5531844) Homepage Journal
    Unless I am mistaken, Google Inc, resides in the USA. And unless my recent vote for the local elections is a ruse, the USA is still a democratic nation. AND unless my recent purchase of clothing made in Mexico (read: not by State sponsored company) then the USA is also a capitalist economy.

    So lets recap. Democratic and Capitalist.

    So that means that
    a) no matter how much you hate a company (MS, Google, AOL, whatever) you have a choice. Just because that choice involves moving to an arguably inferior product does not mean you have no choice. IE some other search engine, ie dial up with no "features", ie OS with less popular apps: linux.
    b) You choice is not foced on you. You are allowed to use any service you want as long as that service does not provide products illegal in your state or in the USA.

    With alternate choices available it makes sense that a company would do well to appease its users to increase its users or keep the current ones happy. To do this companies will do all sorts of things, some of which include eliminating irrelivant data, old data, offensive, or data that would cause unrest (ie everything about democracy, capatolism, or any religion in China).

    Why are you complaining again?

    robi
    • by dh003i (203189)
      No, you don't have a choice, you fucking moron. ALL companies are going to be doing these kinds of things, because none of them have the backbone to stand up to nazi fucks like MS and these Scientologists. They have no principles, and are concerned only with the likelihood of either gaining or losing money, depending on varying actions. Where, exactly, are there search engines that do not do the same kind of crap that Google does? The solution is to provide complete safe harbor to online services -- e.g
    • Think about your post for a minute. One thing that irritates me is when people ignore anything that a corporation does (limit access to information, cover up scandel, operate sweat shops) because they say it is a corporations right to do so. It's also our right and responsibility to discuss it. Now I didn't read the article but I don't have any problem with Google conforming to local laws. However if it was something truely wrong (ie TurboTax writing DRm to bootsector, M$ doing something evil) why shou
  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:20PM (#5531845) Homepage

    on an offtopic side-note about localized censorship, consider textbooks for high-schools. i used to have a neighbor who edited textbooks for a living. to my surprise, most history textbooks come with a basic core, and then about 30% of the material varies from state-to-state, mostly due to political or religious beliefs. this type of silent localized censorship is even more nefarious than Google, i think, especially when occuring in the US.

  • Only a satrical page (Score:5, Informative)

    by kill-hup (120930) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:26PM (#5531897) Homepage
    The worst part, IMHO, is that the original page was reported to have been a joke. Perhaps in bad taste, but only a joke.

    The fact that a city successfully lobbied Google to remove a humor page from its index just because it appeared in a search for their city name is just sad. Granted, Google can do whatever the heck it wants with its own data; it's just bad mojo to censor something that was (supposedly) obviously satire. The interesting part in all this is that, having chosen to censor its index, one wonders if Google can remain a "common carrier" (for lack of a better term). I recall (but cannot for the life of me find the link) a case where an ISP was held liable for some objectionable newsgroups they carried because of their history of censoring groups they did not approve of. IIRC, the judge made it a point to say the ISP would not have been liable had they not censored other groups in the past. By chosing to censor information, they lost the right to hide behind a veil of "we're just a conduit".

    Again, this comment would be much more informative if I could find the URL for that damn story ;)

  • this is important (Score:5, Interesting)

    by astrashe (7452) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:27PM (#5531907) Journal
    I think that these issues are important. Google is probably the most significant reference work in the world. It's made very fundamental changes in the ways people do research. news.google.com is already one of my main news sites -- I use it all the time.

    So I think that these issues are very important.

    I'm a huge google fan, both of the site and the people who run it. I think they're doing their best to sort through these issues. Government rules are a reality that has to be dealt with.

    The thing that I think that google could be criticized for, in all of this, is a lack of transparency. I think they should explain, in detail, what they're doing and why, and make some effort to listen to people who disagree with their policies.

    I'm not saying that they should open it up to a vote, or that they should do things that aren't in their company's best interests. Just that they should listen, and tell us what they're doing.

    Google looms large in the world's conciousness, and it's getting bigger all the time. It would be an overstatement to say that leaving something out of google erases the fact from the world in an orwellian sense. But it does seem to me that leaving stuff out does take a step down that road.

  • black line (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbolden (176878) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:27PM (#5531909) Homepage
    I just wish that goggle indicated they were censoring the results with someting like "230 results removed due to government contols". People should know about censorship it shouldn't be hidden. Perhaps even display the match with a black line through the link (i.e. you can't read the link nor click on it but you are aware of what happened).

    I understand that google thinks it has to do this. The US government can be pretty nasty regarding things like facilitating child porn. European governments can be nasty about political / religious viewpoints they don't agree with (though not as bad as the US regarding child porn). Non western governments can be far worse. Frankly I wish google had the guts to fight because I think they would win but the very least they can do is not cover up for the government.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:32PM (#5531949)
    The real problem is that they don't inform the users about the censoring. I've taken a look around Google, and so far without luck in finding the information - mayby they censor what they censor..

    If Google openly tells the users what they censor, then the users have a choice - and like in China get more and more aware of the conditions they are living under (ok that was a wee bit idealistic).

    I just wonder, why _Google_ thinks what they censor should be kept a secret.
    • what censoring it would be then ?-) when the point of censoring is that some sites aren't wanted to be listed when coming from some countries what point would there be providing a list of those sites to those people.. it's like not giving somebody a menu to look for which food contains spinach yet giving sample of everything that has spinach in it..(ok that doesn't sound that good)

      well.. that's an idea for a new webpage, page listing all the censored sites.
  • I wonder what sites googles censors from the US?
    Can we even find out?
  • by hillct (230132) on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:40PM (#5532011) Homepage Journal
    It is both a value and the greatest risk introduced by the advent of the web, that now fringe ideas can be sought out and the relitively few indeviduals who share these ideas can congregate and cooperate to advance their ideals in a society where those ideas are in the extreme minority. In fact, you can now insulate yourself from reality by seeking out nerws sources and those of similar fringe ideoligies, and limiting your world view, by surrounding yourself with those who share your fringe ideals.

    This allows the crackpots who were once spread thinly throughout society, to become a meaningful force within modern social styructures.

    Google has positioned itself as one of the few gatekeepers between the majority of internet users, and these fringe ideas. It is neither right nor wrong, that the management of google has deemed certain material, not worthy of delivery to users. Google as a corporation has a mission; to deliver the greatest shareholder value. Google management has decided that in order to deliver the greatest value, they must provide results which the greatest number of users, find acceptable, appealing, or otherwise paletteable. They're in this to make money, not as a public service. That's what the Mozilla Directory Project [dmoz.org] is for.

    --CTH
  • google.com (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Schnapple (262314) <tomkidd&viatexas,com> on Monday March 17, 2003 @05:47PM (#5532072) Homepage
    If I'm reading the article correctly, the deal is this - the versions of Google ending in something other than .com are censoring things based off of the region that the extension is in (i.e., the things that are verboten in Germany are excluded from google.de, but not google.com). So why not just have everyone use google.com? I mean, it's not like Google is doing something to figure out where you are via your IP address, so just use vanilla Google, and look for any DMCA stuff at the bottom - you'll get your results in either event.

    And I don't think removing one page to appease the citizens of one village in the UK is that big of a deal.

    • Re:google.com (Score:3, Informative)

      by potaz (211754)
      Maybe because Google automatically redirects you depending on where your IP is coming from?

      For instance, they recognize my IP as being from Canada, and all links to google.com [google.com] redirect to google.ca [google.ca], no matter what I do.

      • Re:google.com (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Schnapple (262314)
        Interesting. I didn't realize that. I suppose if you really wanted to you could use a proxy server of some sort or just disable javascript forwarding but these are all inconveniences and of course Joe User won't think to do them. Plus Joe User will never realize he's having sites hidden from him.
        • Re:google.com (Score:3, Informative)

          by am 2k (217885)
          It's possible to circumvent that by having a google.com preference cookie (it's a bit of a hack to get one though). I've set my browser to use google.com, even though I'm from Europe.
  • by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 17, 2003 @06:11PM (#5532296) Homepage Journal
    I am not so upset that Google is caving in to some of these demands. They cannot afford to fight off rich powerful corporations like the Church of Scientology and Microsoft. Even if these lawsuites are spurrious, they simply can't afford to fight all of them. In that regard, we need legislation to allow the quick and efficient dismissal of bullshit lawsuites like this.

    Google should be completely transparent if they remove information. They should create a section called "Censored Sites" and list what sites (in text-format) these nazi's have asked them to not link to, with the threat of a lawsuite to back up. This way, everyone knows what draconian nazi's are forcing Google's hand by threatening them with impeding lawsuites. It should be like a news section, and they should post the following:

    (1) Who (what corp., country, business, etc) requested what to be removed.

    (2) Their letter requesting such.

    (3) What Google decided to do about it.

    (4) Why they decided to do such.

    (5) The address and e-mail of the offending corporation, so we can let them know what we think.

  • Here in the US, they've even gone so far as to remove the St. Patrick's Day logos from the Google main page.

    Outrage!

    MjM

  • Google in Latvia (Score:2, Informative)

    by dimss (457848)

    I haven't noticed any censorship on google yet, but their "customer care" is really annoying and stupid for users from Latvia ( http://www.lv/ [www.lv]).

    Major problem. They redirect any request from latvian subnets to google.lv which in fact is located somewhere outside latvia. The problem here is that almost any Internet user in Latvia use proxy to access foreign hosts. For efficiency, we set our browsers to bypass proxy for *.lv URL's. Obviously, google.lv cannot be reached directly. So we have to turn *.lv ex

  • by rgmoore (133276) <glandauer@charter.net> on Monday March 17, 2003 @06:42PM (#5532533) Homepage

    As I see it, Google is doing exactly what it should be doing. The company has an obligation to obey laws in each country about what material is and is not legal to view. Not every country has the same views about whether censorship is acceptable, and what things should be censored if it is. Google could get in very serious trouble if it chose to show people things that their governments have decided that they shouldn't have access to. At the same time, Google does seem to be trying hard to do the least damage it can in the process. Specifically, it's not censoring material everywhere just because it's considered objectionable in one place. Americans can still see Holocause denial sites (if they have some bizarre desire to do so), Germans can see Chinese dissident sites, etc.

  • An easy tell-tale sign that a search engine is dying, is the "commercialization" of the site. Simple test - enter something in the search bar. Press Search. Look over the first ~3-5 results. 90% likely they have something to do with either byuing or selling. Look over to your right - More buy/sell adverts... If you are an avid Google user, you quickly realize that the number of these adverts has grown over the months. Oh and by the way - a private company does not benefit from censoring. On the other h
  • by bot (235273) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:52PM (#5533043)

    Google is/may become a monopoly in the search space. As a previous discussion [slashdot.org] noted, it has entered into our common vocabulary. In such a situation, where do the rights of a private organization end, and that of the public good begin?

    For instance, if PacBell (substitute your local phone company here) stops carrying calls over its physical network that use other long distance services, or Microsoft [redhat.com] tries putting roadblocks for third party applications on its platform .. umm- scratch the last one.

    • I really doubt google will ever become a monopoly. To paraphrase it will never become a monopoly that abuses its monopoly power.

      That is because it is very cheap to enter that market. The moment Google starts abuse an alternative provider will enter. They may not have google's patented search engine, but other search engines are possible.

      Telcos and Microsoft, on the other hand, have a lot more to keep others from entering the market.

      Aspirin had also arrived in our common vocabulary but that did not preven
  • If it's important and likely to upset anyone's applecart, (just about anything important, in other words) using multiple search engines at a time would be in order.

    While they (any "they) probably can probably get most of them, they probably can't get them all.

    On Windows, there's Copernic 2000 [copernic.com] What's good for Windows and on the Web?

    From a business standpoint, remember that what sold us on google to begin with and why we spread the word about it was that it was unbiased and effective, i.e. likely to come u

    • If we can't depend on Google for honest results, most of us will go on to something else, and we will probably be taking a large chunk of the user community as a whole with us.

      How I wish this were true. But I think the masses are comfortable with their biases and seem to thrive on distorted information flows where it unifies them in their biases. They would only revolt if their own personal interests were greatly offended, or if there were a search engine that led you to free archives of usenet binary

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_

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