Down the Memory Hole: Google on Censorship

Google censorGoogle Blogoscoped caught the behemoth red-handed:

Incredible. Google removed their help entry on censorship, as Gary Price discovered. Here’s what it used to read:

“Google 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 Google’s search technology, please visit …”

This is what the page reads now:

Document Not Found

Sorry, the document you requested is not available. You can visit the main page.”

The document at this time was still accessible through the Google cache (I’ve made a screenshot).

Is Google’s motto of “don’t be evil” becoming a cynical relic of a doe-eyed web startup now that they’ve finally become an international megacorp? Well, public pressure and exposure may may them think twice about their responsibility to their users.

However any government inquiry is probably a really bad idea, since even for Google to be wrong doesn’t justify government intervention. After all, in a free market, some new company could come along selling services in China and knock their block off in a few years with better social policies and a more competitive product (in this case, one without censorship, like say Yahoo! someone else?).

4 Comments
  1. Time for a new search engine? I don’t think so.
    It’s well within Google’s right as a private entity to filter the results. Does this make them evil? Well… in China, maybe. But wasn’t the deal that the Chinese government wouldn’t use the great firewall of china to block out Google, if only they would filter traces of former (and maybe present) communistic oppression?

    I understand that the Chinese people are very familiar with proxies, especially programs like CGI proxy, as a way of poking through the holes of this firewall and experiencing the free world, and the free Google, where results are not filtered.

    Or are they now filtered in the US as well?

  2. Matt,

    I think Google getting into China is a good thing, whatever form it is. The “full” Google may be hobbled, but the Chinese are going to get more information than they have now, hobbled Google or not. Slowly China’s restrictions will probably loosen up as capitalism takes a stronger hold.

    Them removing the censorship message for U.S. (and the rest of the world?) is just bad PR. It does make you wonder if they’re censoring something here now too, otherwise why wouldn’t they have just removed that message for regions it applies?