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Google Censorship in China

As a follow-up to yesterday’s entry, I thought I would explore the censorship that Google was enacting in order to appease the Chinese government. The protests and ensuing violence that took place near Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989 are a taboo topic in China and only the views of the party are allowed to be disseminated. Many of you would think this would be one of the first things to be censored.
Search Engine Watch posted a side-by-side comparison of images.google.com and images.google.cn doing a search for tiananmen using the western character set. Yes, there seems to be some censorship going on there. They suggest that you mis-spell tiananmen (change the a’s to e’s) at which point you will have defeated the english censorship. While that is interesting, it’s not realistic of how a Chinese gal sitting behind a computer is going to do a Google search.
I think I have my translation proper that Tiananmen = 天安門 – it’s the gate of heavenly ascension. When you execute this search, you will notice towards the bottom of the first page what looks like stain in the shape of a human body. If you click through, you will find a Japanese page with all sorts of images of crushed bicyclists, tanks, the access road to Tiananmen Square, etc. Based on the results, I guess my Chinese translation is correct.
So what is being censored? Based on my non-scientific approach, it is hard to say. My assertion yesterday was that the Chinese wanted to preclude its citizens from creating and viewing sites that promote unrest and revolt against the government. There is probably more to it, but I don’t think it is as clear cut as the paranoid American society wants to make it.

The Difference Between America and the Rest of the World

Google has received a lot of flack over the past week regarding their refusal to hand over information to the US Department of Justice and their agreement with the chinese to censor search results. I think it is unfair to characterize these decisions as greedy. Rather, it is smart business that is merely observing the laws of the jurisdictions they wish to operate in.
For those of you in the United States, if a police officer came to your home (without a warrant or any prompting of any kind) and asked you if he could look around, would you let him? Probably not. Does that mean you have something to hide? No. It just means that in the United States, we have some level of a right of privacy from governmental intrusion without probably cause. If you were a US citizen staying in the Beijing International Hotel and an officer came to your room and asked if he could look around, would you let him? The fact is, you probably wouldn’t have a choice, but you would be saving face by allowing it and would end up with a lot less hassle in the end.
My point is that businesses are just like people in that they have to operate according to the laws of the juridictions they are operating within. If the DOJ could come up with a good reason other than “you have a lot of data and we sure would like to look at it”, it would be a different matter. But simply wanting to look at their data isn’t a good enough reason for them to hand it over in the United States.
Conversely, while China is the site of increasing demonstration and protest activity, speech is not a freedom like it is in the United States. The Internet has opened the world to the Chinese like nothing else could. Information flows freely much the same as it does here. My understanding of what the Chinese government is trying to censor is access to sites that incite political unrest that goes beyond civil disobedience. Some sites offer viewpoints and suggestions that are the equivalent of yelling FIRE! in a movie theatre.
I imagine they will eventually reach the same level of freedoms we are at (after all, nirvana is central to the buddhist faith). If Iraq has taught us one thing, it should be that governments cannot change their forms overnight. It is a slow and sometimes painful process. We are used to getting things on demand, but changing the way of life for 1.5 billion people can’t be one of those things. So let Google help them censor some stuff – just imagine how the rest of what is in their indexes can benefit from having China engaged in the conversation.

Gift Lists

It seems so simple in retrospect, yet I can’t think of any site that offers it other than amazon.com. Now, not only can you create a wish list that allows others to see stuff you’re looking for, you can create gifts lists for other people that only you can see. I have already set one up for many of the people I buy gifts for just to help me remember that they said they were looking for something or I came across something they would like. And since amazon.com is capturing this information for me, they are the incumbent retailer to earn my dollars when I go to purchase one of these items. What a fantastic and innovative idea!

Xin nian yu kuai!

Happy Lunar New Year!
luck.gif
This is the word “Fu”, upside down. It means luck. And about the only time you will see a chinese word hung upside down is on a banner announcing the arrival of the new year.
This year is the year of the dog. There is a lot more to the new year than simply assigning an animal to keep track of it. Unfortunately, it won’t all fit on the placemat at your local chinese restaurant. Here is a site with more information on the mathematics of the Chinese calendar.

Chinese people like the barking sound because “woof-woof” makes an association of the Chinese character “wang,” which means prosperity.

Funny. My barking dogs only seem to bring on headaches and vet bills. But even if they are a cost center, I love them just the same. This is an auspicious year for marriage as well. Many chinese will choose to get married in the year of the dog. So will divorce be fashionable next year in the year of the pig? I guess we’ll just have to wait to find out.
Read More -> Barking dog brings about wealth, fortune

A Homeless Problem of a Different Kind in India

You can form your own opinions.

In Delhi alone, officials say there are tens of thousands of cattle on the streets, despite a 1957 law allowing the government to seize strays. Wandering cattle cause traffic accidents, clog sewers with dung and even make people who drink their tainted milk sick. The problem is especially acute as more cars, created by the subcontinent’s booming economy, ply jammed roadways.

Read More (registration req’d) -> WSJ.com – Overrun India Tries Microchips to Track Garbage-Eating Cows

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