Uln on Google.cn – “Why it’s Good that Google.cn Leaves”
Advanced SEM for Dummies (Search Engine Manipulation)
The most amusing thing in the Google crisis is all the commentators crying about the loss of Google.cn and its negative consequences for the freedom of the Chinese. In fact, I maintain that Google.cn is the most evil product to ever have existed in the Chinese internet, and the World will be a better place without it.
That is because, unlike the Chinese official sites that practice censorship, what the search engines do is manipulation. Why? Because Google.cn is not a content site in itself, it is a gateway to the internet. When people type in a keyword into the search field, they are actually trusting it to return a fair picture of what is on the net.
When you type a “sensitive” term and G.cn removes all the results except the People’s Daily and Xinhua, Google’s responsibility is double: not only it supports those often objectible views on the first page, but it also implicitly states that it is the ONLY opinion existing in the World.
And the worse is, the Chinese who believed that would be right to do so, because Google’s well known principles clearly specify their commitment to give all the information available in a democratic way. The little warning message that is displayed on Google.cn SEM searches is meant to avoid this situation, but it is tiny and often placed right at the bottom of the page, so most Chinese users just ignore it.
In the case of Google.cn, SEM is not about “good” or “evil”. It is about breaking the very principles that give a sense to the Google company, and it is understandable that Google has never been comfortable with it.
It is obvious that, if Google manages to keep Google.com and eliminate Google.cn, and in the process convince the CCP that it has already suffered the deserved punishment (for Google it DOES matter to lose G.cn, it is a source of revenue) then all will have ended well. That was probably not the initial intention of Google’s move, but it is a possible outcome.
On the other hand, some commenters are already saying that I am too optimistic, and that the CCP will quickly come to the same conclusion I have come and block Google.com. The good news is that EVEN if they do block Google.com, the situation will still be better than today. The Chinese Google users will start to miss the G, and they will start to use web proxies to access Google.com, expanding their use and making the Chinese net population more conscious of the GFW and of the ways to cross it.
Kai Pan makes the opposite argument that it’s better for Google to stay in China. Personally I find Uln’s more persuasive. If Google.cn provides an indispensable service, after Google’s withdrawal an alternative will spring up for Chinese internet users to use or the users themselves will access Google.com (directly or through proxies). If they don’t need Google.cn, they won’t be losing anything. And at the very least Google won’t be supporting the Chinese government’s filtering of the internet by offering a censored version of their search engine.
Hat-tip to Richard at the Peking Duck for flagging this up.
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