Speaking Chinese, Seeing Middle America
Search results from commie, porn-/human rights-free, Chinese Google:
We decided to do our own little test of the resent Google China, much like the one we found at boingboing. With ours, however, we had the luxury of a Chinese keyboard in which we could do the search in Chinese.
Please keep in mind that we have no profound knowledge of how Google works exactly, so all of this is pure observation.
Doing several prelimenary searches of things like Falung Gong, Human Rights, etc. We actually got more sources on google.cn than we had gotten from google.com. We were shocked, obviously, thinking we were onto something, until we realized that most of the pages were Taiwanese. It should be clarified that we were writing in Traditional Chinese characters, not the simplified characters used in mainland China. We don't mention that to say that it makes a difference, because for the most part they translate directly in computer langauge (as far as we know). Fortunately, Chinese Google speaks both.
When we typed "Human Rights China" (in Chinese) we got the sight, we got considerably different results (much like the search featured on BoingBoing). On google.com, we got the Human Rights Watch site for china. So we then decided to do that search in both googles and the results are presented above.
There are two interesting aspects pertaining to the Chinese Google. One, is that even though the Chinese search doesn't present any links, it still tells you how many sites it found: 4,300. The second curious thing is this, which you can see at the bottom of the page:
This says in effect, "Due to local laws, etc., we can't present the links relevant to this search." With the number of pages listed along with the fact that Google won't show them, there shouldn't be much doubt as to whether the people doing the searches know their is information being hidden from them or not (supposing they can read Chinese, obviously).
As an interesting comparison, we decided to do some searches on other subjects pertaining to the United states on various world Googles and see how it turned out (highest numbers highlighted):
War Crimes America - Google.com (31.9 million), Google.fr (102 million), Google.ru (32 million), Google.cn (7.68 million), google.ae (32 million), Google.com.br (76.5 million), Google.it (17.9 million)
Human rights America - Google. com (187 million), Google.fr (188 million), Google.ru (187 million), Google.cn (62.1 million), Google.ae (187 million), Google.com.br (188 million), Google.it (204 million)
Bush war crimes - Google.com (13.5 million), Google.fr (28.9 million), Google.ru (45.6 million), Google.cn (5.95 million), Google.ae (13.4 million), Google.com.br (28.9 million), Google.it (13.5 million)
Sites where the number of links were more or less the same:
Columbia coca plants agent orange
America white phosphorus Iraq
America Rocks (a cool 17.5 million on almost every single Google)
If this shows one thing, it's the fact that France has more than THREE TIMES the sites on for "War Crimes America."
If this shows another thing, there was never one time that Google.com had the highest link count of the gang. There were times where the results were similar, but never were they more than, for the most part, China, with a few exceptions like Italy and Brazil.
We showed this as well, in an attempt to show that langauge changes things. For instance, searching Google.fr in French, there are only 390,000 results for "Bush war crimes" (compared to the huge 45.6 million in English).
We don't understand what determines the numbers, but there is no trend that we see, other than that the Arab Google is almost always exactly the same as regular Google and Chinese Google is always lower.
As to what in God's name this has to do with America, well we're not trying to say Super-free, American Google is censoring material from the watchful eye of the ever-vigilant American public. It's something that struck us in a conversation the other night on the subject of Google in China. The group at the table in the chic, over-priced Paris cafe were as follows: American, French, Chinese, Taiwanese, and South Korean.
After a time, my curiosity got the best of me, and I turned to the Chinese table-fellow. I asked my new sinofriend, "Do you know about Google in China? that they censor it?"
He paused for a second, then said, awkwardly, "Yeah, a little, but we're a huge country. You know we have 1.3 billion people?"
"Yes," I said.
"I think," he said, "You have to understand that Chinese people don't care much about politics." He laughed, "I mean there's only one party."
"Yes, I understand."
"I think it's necessary for the government to control certain things to keep things moving in the right direction."
"Yes, but," I hesitated because I didn't want him to feel uncomfortable, "Do you hear about journalists who are arrested and intimidated, even killed, for reporting corruption in the government?"
"We know a little," he said.
I got back on my soapbox. "I don't want to give you the impression that I'm criticizing you or your country. I think there are good and horrible things about every country" -- I didn't bother mentioning that Sweden is more or less perfect -- "but this has a direct effect on your life when your government doesn't tell you that pollution is so bad in cities that hundreds of thousands of people are dying."
I should mention that I said this in my improvised French, so Fanfan had to translate it into Chinese for him.
He just nodded after. I told him that I didn't mean to put him on the spot. Luna, the South Korean with us, said that in South Korea, they aren't allowed to look neither at sites with nudity or with homosexuality nor those that are in North Korea.
Something kept playing in my mind, through all of this. Is there something similar in the United States?
Well, the most recent Pew Research Center report shows (above) that a slight majority of Americans are okay with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping, as well as the Patriot Act. I hate to sound trite, but what's the difference when a Chinese person says that the government has the right to carry out it's actions behind a curtain in the name of national security and stability, though when an American says it, it's somehow different?
With so many Americans up in arms about Google's acquiessence to a corrupt Chinese government, why are the "patriots" in a model democracy not more than just a little ticked about the undemocratic exploits of their present government?
(to be continued)
Technorati tags: censorship, China, Google, Bush, NSA