Saturday, January 28, 2006

据当地法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。

This has been popping up a lot lately at Google.cn, Google's new search engine for China:

据当地法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。

You don't understand? I don't either but I'm told that it basically means "these results are censored" and it is the disclaimer for Google as they post results that have been modified according to specs provided by the Government of China.

I have not been as critical as most of Google's decision to censor results for several reasons. The best have been articulated by Bill Gates at Microsoft. Gates echoes many of the sentiments expressed in this official post by Google about Google Censorship:

... embrace of a market economy and its lifting of 400 million people out of poverty ...

China critics give these accomplishments short shrift. Life comes before liberty, and to enjoy both you must have adequate living conditions. It's not clear to me that it's our right or our job to tell China how to meet the needs of the world's largest population.

McLaughlin continues:
But how is that full access most likely to be achieved? We are convinced that the Internet, and its continued development through the efforts of companies like Google, will effectively contribute to openness and prosperity in the world. Our continued engagement with China is the best (perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.

I'm not as optimistic as Google about the future of censorship in China but I'm also tired of hearing the shrill commentary implying that we've "perfected" free speech here in the USA. "All the free speech money can buy" is hardly a perfect model for a free and open democracy.

Sure, a thoughful speaker has the right to challenge or discuss any political point of view, but even the finest and most intelligent debates are (usually) lost in the din of "news" about celebrity crimes and propaganda by the celebrity spokespeople for the mindless.

Luckily the internet is a far more powerful distributive mechanism than most reckon and the spread of information will flow past most of the roadblocks very quickly. This is happening in the USA thanks to websites and blogs that challenge conventional wisdom and the abundant commercial forms of speech that effectivly censor debate and it's starting to happen in China as people learn to beat the filters and access the "free and open" global internet. China will soon see that censorship will likely have the unintended consequence of focusing attention on the very topics they seek to hide.



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