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Google vs. Censored Internet

Can't see, can't speak, can't hear
Credit: flickr / kirikiri

Of course, I’ve been following the debate about Google leaving China and the fallout. There’s a good summary in the NYT, as well as a piece on Sergey Brin and his childhood in the Soviet Union. I really love the evil meter.

I was in China in 2007 for about 3 months. I’d braced myself for a different internet experience, but mostly it was OK. I couldn’t get the BBC news, but I think I could get The Times. I kept track of my journeys and experiences on Blogger, and my email worked just fine.

Of course, I was in China temporarily and knew I could search for Tiananmen Square when I got home. I wasn’t concerned about finding information, I was concerned about going about my day to day internet activities, which were mostly fine. I was in Yantai, but later on I went to Beijing and Shanghai, where the internet was more open. Towards the end of my trip, I found myself in Yangshao where it seemed like every site I tried to access redirected me to Baidu (the Chinese search engine). It made sense to me that in a place where there was such extreme poverty coupled with a large number of wealthy tourists the internet would be restricted, although a friend said it might not be censorship, but more a question of paying for access.

I was back in China last summer, and so I was there as the internet shut down. As Facebook was restricted, and Twitter became inaccessible. At one point, the wiki that contained our teaching materials was unavailable as well.

2 years – and the situation hadn’t got better. In fact, it was worse. And we ignore this, in the West, the fact that people’s internet freedoms have been taken away. This seems a little wrong to me. When I was there, we all thought, oh it’ll be back soon. But more than 6 months later, it hasn’t come back.

So I admire Google’s stance. Censorship is not okay. Things are not getting better. And maybe Google pulling out of China won’t help, but acknowledging the problem is a start.