Internet censorship in China takes place in many different ways. Major search companies like Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, Baidu and Alibaba comply with repressive Chinese Government regulations and block search terms and results, and at the same time, they gather information about search terms in their server logs.
Every time you use a search engine, the words you searched for are recorded in a server log. This provides search engine companies with valuable statistical information that they use to sell advertising space to their clients. Analysing these logs is part of the core business model of these companies.
Amnesty International’s idea is to take their message to the place where it will receive most attention from the search engine companies – the server logs themselves. By inviting users to search for censored topics on search engines in China, we can flood the server logs with terms related to human rights and democracy.
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Search Engines Excuses for Censorship
Aware of the trade-offs they’re making, Google executives say they believe the company can play a more positive role by participating in the Chinese market, despite restrictions, than by boycotting the country in order to avoid such compromises.
“In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on Google.cn, in response to local law, regulation or policy,”
“While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission,” the company stated.
Google would be a far braver, less evil company if it said to the Chinese government that it won’t do the widespread censorship that’s being demanded. Keep your money, good luck with your suppression of knowledge and freedom, we’ll do business in other places. See you when your policies change. – Danny Sullivan – Search Engine Watch
Amnesty International demands that search engines release a definitive list of search terms that are being blocked and doesn’t buy the “we are only following local laws” excuse, accusing search companies of often self-censoring beyond what the Chinese government asks them to.
A new report Search Engines Chinese Self-Censorship by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that Amnesty is right because search companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo seem to be independently deciding what to censor and could be censoring more information than Chinese laws demand.
Help Amnesty International Tear down the Great Firewall of China
“Torchure” is one of a series of animated films highlighting China’s human rights record in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. Help Amnesty International take action for human rights in China
Many organisations have investigated Chinese Internet Censorship, a selection of articles are linked to below:
- Net censorship: the basics – Antony Loewenstein
- “The Connection Has Been Reset” – Atlantic Monthly
- China: Internet Companies Aid Censorship – Human Rights Watch
- Reporters Without Borders – Reports on level of Press freedom world-wide
- Should We Boycott Chinas 2008 Beijing Olympic Games?
- New Google Search Engine Enables Censorship in China – Epoch Times
- Sparks fly as Google bows to China – ABC News
- Information supplied by Yahoo! helped Chinese journalist get 10 years in prison – Blog Herald
- Yahoo Settles With! Jailed Chinese Journos – The Register
- Yahoo Betrayed My Husband – Wired.com