I’m disappointed in what you did. You, of all companies, should have set the example of ‘how to be independent and neutral’. I never thought you would give in to the claims of governments to hide information. What is there left now to be trusted if even search is being manipulated? How can I be ever sure that what you display to me as a result for the queries I’ve entered is real, complete and fully objective? Whenever I have to do research on delicate matters, how can I ever be sure I get to read the real pros and cons?
I always thought you guys would stand up for the freedom of speech and thoughts. You were the true example of a search engine that said things as they were. I’ve always been very pleased with the completeness of the information I got. I really thought this could last forever as the internet grew bigger, day after day. Apparently I was wrong. I appreciated it a lot you didn’t want to give in to the U.S. government like other companies have, in order to protect your users. Not that I have anything to hide, but because I thought it was just the right thing to do. Because I agreed that no government has the right to interfere with ’search’ in general. I was proud to be part of a Google community that stood up for its users. And now you’ve done the complete opposite of what you’ve always promised to do. These last days, information about your growing sneakyness and compliance to governments worldwide, in particular the Chinese, are piling up. What’s up with that? Where did you go wrong?
I’ve always thought you would do exactly what you always claimed, that you were a company we could trust and have faith in. That the ‘do no evil’ you always cherished would remain a mantra that could be repeated for as long as your service was up and running. I’ve always been a defender of your engine. I can’t even begin to count the amount of PCs I’ve fixed where I changed the homepage from MSN to Google, because you guys were better, faster, more reliable, less corporate, less evil and so on.
The ‘old’ Google said this: â€œGoogle does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results. To learn more about Googleâ€™s search technology, please visit â€¦â€
While the ‘new’ Google now says this: â€œIt is Googleâ€™s policy not to censor search results. However, in response to local laws, regulations, or policies, we may do so. When we remove search results for these reasons, we display a notice on our search results pages. Please note: For some older removals (before March 2005), we may not show a notice at this time.â€
The fact you removed your statement about your belief in the democracy of the web hurts me a lot. You could’ve just added ‘except in China’ or something, but no. You took down the entire statement. We know now you do censor results, but does it also means the content of your results will no longer be completely automated? Does it mean you will manipulate search results by hand? Does it mean you no longer believe strongly in the democracy of the web? Will ranking be affected by your decision? I’m not sure how big of a sell-out that exactly is. But it seems rather huge. I totally lost my faith in you guys. I don’t know how else to put it. I’m deeply disappointed. Your new statement is crap and doesn’t even come near the definition you first pursued. I know I don’t own the company and it’s none of my business, but have you got any idea how many users have lost their trust in you? Can you do this just like that? If my search results are censored, whereto should I turn to be informed? How can I now ever retrieve the true thoughts on an issue someone has put online somewhere?
I understand the Chinese market is the future. I understand business is business and that you needed to be represented in China. But I thought you already did that with your participation in Baidu. You say in your response that:
Google users in China today struggle with a service that, to be blunt, isnâ€™t very good. Google.com appears to be down around 10% of the time. Even when users can reach it, the website is slow, and sometimes produces results that when clicked on, stall out the userâ€™s browser. Our Google News service is never available; Google Images is accessible only half the time. At Google we work hard to create a great experience for our users, and the level of service weâ€™ve been able to provide in China is not something weâ€™re proud of.
Well I for one disagree. The service might have been slow, but at least it produced results unfiltered. Maybe browsers stalled, maybe Google News was down. Maybe images were only accessible half of the time. At least they were accessible, the other half of the time. At least the info was there. That was something to be proud of. I can’t speak for all the Chinese searchers because I don’t live there, but I’m pretty sure they’ll think you’re a lame service now. You used to be different. Slow, stalling, but different. You were a link with the outside world. Now all you do is promote the same brainless information the other search engines pre-chew for the Chinese people. What extra value is there now, except for the ‘us-too’ feeling that you have for joining a club of engines and deliver the exact same politically corrected results? I dare to say: none.
Maybe you’ve entered a market that is going to boom. Truly, I agree that is an interesting place to be in. But at what cost? Freedom of speech is the most important thing in life. And that is something you now have forsaken. Do you actually believe that the Chinese government will change in the near future and that maybe one day you will be able to provide the Chinese people with the ‘real’ results? That would be great, but I think ‘real’ results are no longer an option. I think that you have set the trail for other governments to start trying to censor results. I think a lot of other governments will come with some sort of mediocre reason that puts you in the choice of either leaving that country for what it is or complying to their requests and filter out some results. And I hope that isn’t the case today already, although Philipp pointed out you actually do stuff like that in Germany already.
What if the Germans asked you to block all Nazi-related news? Not just the hate-creating sites you’re blocking already, but all the Nazi related issues. You wouldn’t do that would you? No, because the international pressure would be too big. Yet still, what happened on Tian An Men square is being filtered, as Philipp points out with screenshots, a lot of historical facts are. Can you tell me why you, as a search engine, are filtering facts of history? You’re denying the truth. You’re hiding facts that hundreds of people thought were worth dying for, facts that affected thousands of people. People died there for a cause, for a reason. Don’t the people of China have the right to know? Apparently not.
Can you tell me what the difference is between China and Germany’s war history? I’m not comparing the holocaust to Tien An Men, but I’m just pointing out you are helping to rewrite history. Facts are facts. It happened. What keeps you from blocking out everything? To which point have you already complied to the US government to hide facts that aren’t really in their favor? What do you have left to guarantee me that what you display is the truth, and nothing but? You’ve raised a lot of questions. You’ve showed your weakness and gave in. Don’t come telling me it was to deliver a better service to a market, because I don’t buy it. You gave in just for the cash. You’ve let me down, and I’ll never forgive you for that. I’ll no longer believe what you say, plainly because you said it. I’ll doubt every word you publish and look for a darker secret behind every of your propagandish announcements.
It’s true that a Google.cn is better than no Google at all in China. Fact is, there was a Google. I just think it should’ve been different than what it is today. I don’t think it’ll be ‘for greater good’. I don’t think it’ll actually help the Chinese in their quest for information about world facts, because if they aren’t conform the Chinese government’s point of view they’ll be censored. That adds no extra value to your product. If they wanted to research how to make strawberry jam, they could do so already. I agree, from your point of view it would be better if they researched it on a Google.cn, but it’s the thought that counts. You changed a worldwide respected policy in order to be able to get access to one market. And that’s a sell-out. You didn’t change a policy statement on Google.cn, you changed it on the dot com. That affects us all, and not just the indoctrinated Chinese people.
I’m pretty sure that if Bush forced you to hide stuff about Iraq, you’d say no. But how long until that changes? And if the results of any search query by users are being altered every time a government changes, then please tell me what’s the use of having a search engine that is dependent of the type of government that runs the country that allows your service to be available?
Sergey Brin talks about this issue (ironically enough) on CNN Money:
[...] But anyhow the net effect is that all of our services…soon we will be largely unavailable. We ultimately made a difficult decision, but we felt that by participating there, and making our services more available, even if not to the 100 percent that we ideally would like, that it will be better for Chinese Web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it.
I met the guy at Brainstorm, I think his name’s Xiao. Just over the years I’ve been interested in this question, and talked to three or four different people in China. My point of view really did change. And don’t forget that I was born in the Soviet Union and my early childhood was spent there, so I’m very sensitive to this kind of issue. It wasn’t easy. But I gradually grew comfortable, and I think we’re doing the right thing.
And we also by the way have to do similar things in the U.S. and Germany. We also have to block certain material based on law.
So in order to get their other services through, they needed to censor results. It’s all about the money. Understandble, but still… not good at all. How long before scientific results are filtered? How long before religious results are filtered? What if a Muslim country decided Christian results are no good? What if a Jew country decided to block out all Palestinian sites or news sources? What if Bush suddenly decided Darwin’s technology should no longer be able to be researched upon? I’m just wondering.
This is just my two cents. You, as a reader, think of it what you want, while you still can.