So Long, Dalai Lama: Google Adapts to China 【NY Times】 2006.02.16
13, Feb 2006 12:42
For people outside China, or Chinese who can circumvent the Internet firewall, the 2,030 images on unfiltered Google.com favor the Dalai Lama of today. He is the genial-looking guy in the burgundy and saffron robe, here meeting President Bush, there speaking to 40,000 people in New Jersey.
Several of the biggest media and technology companies have come under attack for helping the Chinese government police the Web. Yahoo provided information about its users' e-mail accounts that helped the authorities convict dissidents in 2003 and 2005, Chinese lawyers say. Microsoft closed a popular blog it hosted that offended Chinese censors. Cisco has sold equipment that helps Beijing restrict access to Web sites it considers subversive.
But few have cooperated as openly as Google. Google's local staff works closely with Chinese officials to ensure that search results from Google.cn do not include information, images or links to Web sites that the government does not want its people to see.
Google.com, the company's main international search engine, is still available in China, though it often operates inefficiently because it produces links that cannot be opened inside China's firewall.
Google.cn, Google says, works faster and serves its users better — and Google places a blunt but discreet disclosure of censorship on the bottom of Web pages that include elided search results. Even so, critics say, the service violates Google's motto, "Don't Be Evil." They say the company has lent its expertise and good name to blocking information on religion, politics and history that the Communist Party feels might undermine its monopoly on power.
"It was one thing when you hit on links that did not work. You could see what was blocked," said Liu Xiaobo, a leading dissident writer. "The new Google hides the hand of the censor."
In other words, it's no longer possible to tell what the censors are hiding, only that something is being censored.
In some cases, the manipulations are fairly subtle. Students wanting to learn more about the "Republic of China" on Google.cn would be steered to information about the period from 1912 to 1949, when the mainland was called Republic of China and the Communists had not yet taken power. The same search on Google.com provides links to sites in archrival Taiwan, which still formally goes by that name.
In other cases, the omissions are glaring. Searches for photos of Tiananmen Square on regular Google produce many shots of a man blocking a column of tanks outside the square, the iconic image of the 1989 democracy movement and the later crackdown.
Google.cn features soldiers raising the national flag and tourists taking snapshots of each other in the square, the sun shining in a sapphire sky.