OK, I admit it, I am a Googler. I do all my searches through Google. If I use Internet Explorer, I use Google's toolbar. I've started using gmail instead of hotmail or yahoo. And I had begun reading my news at Google News.
Until Bill contacted me. Bill Xia is founder of Dynamic Internet Technology (DIT).
Bill told me that the Chinese version of Google news filters out some sites, The Epoch Times included. Though my Chinese doesn't go a lot beyond "Ni hao" (hello), I could see the difference in results when searching Chinese Google News in the US or through a proxy with China: some vs. none.
I used to tell people that the Chinese government even tried to block Google. Now, I have to tell people that Google filters out my newspaper.
I “chatted” off the record with Google’s Manager of International PR about this. On the record, the reason given was improving user experience.
Josh McHugh in the January 2003 edition of Wired discussed Google's maxim of “Don't be evil.” This is a pretty good saying, but complicated to carry out, he pointed out, when dealing with, among other things, repressive regimes like China. Many in the U.S., both in government and in the corporate world have the idea that if we do business with a corrupt government, then we'll reform them.
It hasn't worked out that way in China. It seems the opposite happens, and the government corrupts you. Yahoo a few years back complied with the PRC's censoring. Cisco equipment forms the backbone of China’s Great Firewall.
Google had a choice to make when it started its version of Google News for China. It could have displayed all possible news outlets and let the Chinese government make its own choices. Or it could have filtered out sites blocked by the Chinese government.
It chose the latter.
Google may have thought it was benefiting the user by not showing sites that can't be accessed. But is this true?
When you search on Google News, you get a summary of the article. For example, if I search for “Google news” a number of the results are about the Google “censoring” issue. From just reading the summaries, you get a sense of what's going on. In China, you don't get that sense, because sites are omitted. Which sites? I asked Google for a list, but was not given them.
So in China you get a false sense of reality. Bill Xia of DIT talks about the China Matrix. As in the movie, The Matrix, where people took as real the world presented to them.
The official goal for Google News China is “providing the user with the best search experience possible.” To me, ensuring a “best search experience” sounds a bit too much like what the Matrix has to offer.
What if I'm searching for the truth?
Each individual has a choice. Do we want to know the truth or do we want to live in ignorance?
Google's decision to censor hinders the ability to make that choice. If Google News would show search results from banned websites then people in China would have an idea that there is something beyond the China Matrix. And then they might try to find the truth as Neo did.
Which brings us back to Bill. He is our Morpheus. He has a program called Freegate. It is the red pill. It shows you what the matrix is by suddenly giving you access to the whole internet. (Why would Symantec “mistakenly” have labeled Freegate as a trojan virus? Freegate is like a real Trojan horse opening the gates to the outside)
No one has to use Freegate. People can decide. Maybe they are content taking the blue pill and living life in ignorance (but maybe not bliss).
Using Freegate opens the Chinese web browser to many things that may not be morally beneficial, such as sites on gambling and pornography. But it also allows one to see how the Chinese government has set up an internet and media blockade. It allows one to gain forbidden information such as how the PRC has persecuted its own people, be they Uigher Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Democracy dissidents, underground Christian church groups, or Falun Gong practitioners.
As Neo reaches for the red pill Morpheus warns Neo, “Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
So the big question is, “Do you want to know the truth?”
Since I do, Google News isn't the place to go. I'd better keep searching.