Nice Work EU: You've Given Google An Excuse To Offer A Censored Search Engine In China

from the handing-authoritarian-states-easy-victories dept

We’ve already explained why we think Google is making exactly the wrong move in experimenting with a government-approved censored search engine in China, called Dragonfly. However, the company continues to move forward with this idea. CEO Sundar Pichai gave an interview with the NY Times, in which he defends this move by… arguing it’s the equivalent of the “Right to Be Forgotten” in the EU, with which Google is required to comply:

One of the things that?s not well understood, I think, is that we operate in many countries where there is censorship. When we follow ?right to be forgotten? laws, we are censoring search results because we?re complying with the law. I?m committed to serving users in China. Whatever form it takes, I actually don?t know the answer. It?s not even clear to me that search in China is the product we need to do today.

A few people, who I respect, have tried to argue that this analogy is unfair. Mathew Ingram has a story at the Columbia Journalism Review that rightly points out the differences between deleting content because the subject of that content complains vs. when the government wants things disappeared. Former Facebook Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos argued that the comparison is “amoral and mendacious.” He too agrees that there are problems with the RTBF in the EU, but China’s censorship is to a different degree:

The “right to be forgotten” is a form of censorship that has been abused by many individuals and it’s application extra-territorially should be resisted. However, China’s censorship regime is a tool to maintain the absolute control of the party-state and is in no way comparable.

I both agree and disagree with this statement. What China is doing is to a different degree. But the mechanisms and the concepts behind them are the same. Indeed, we’ve pointed out for years that any move towards internet censorship in the Western World is almost immediately seized upon by China to justify that country’s much more aggressive and egregious political censorship. Remember, back when the US was considering SOPA/PIPA, which would have censored whole websites on the basis of claims of copyright infringement, the Chinese government gleefully pointed out that the US was copying China’s approach to the internet, and pushing for a “Great Firewall” for “harmful” information. It’s just that, in the US’s case, that “harmful information” was infringing information that hurt the bottom line of a few entertainment companies, while in China, they saw it as anything that might lead to political unrest. But, as they made clear, it was the same thing: you guys want to keep “harmful” information offline, and so do we.

That push for SOPA/PIPA gave the Chinese cover to continue to censor the internet — and now the EU and its silly Right to be Forgotten is doing the same thing. So, yes, the style and degree of the censorship is not the same — but the nature of what it is and how it’s done continues to give massive cover to China in dismissing any complaints about its widespread censorship regime.

That said, it is reasonable to point out that Sundar Pichai should not be helping out the Chinese in furthering this argument on the pages of the NY Times… and I’d agree with you. But at least some of the blame must fall on the EU and other governments which have increasingly moved towards internet censorship regimes. Even if they’re done for a different purpose, authoritarian regimes will always seize on them to excuse their own such behavior.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Nice Work EU: You've Given Google An Excuse To Offer A Censored Search Engine In China”

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31 Comments
N.O. Scuse says:

Mendacious Google and commies will ALWAYS find excuse.

YOU are of course helping Google’s mendacity by trying to displace blame onto EU.

Right To Be Forgotten, a mere matter of individuals, is on the same planet, yes, but entirely UNlike Chi-Com censoring in kind and degree.

Simply shameful excusing, Masnick.

And WHY do you do try to prop up this feeble excuse? — You’ve again entirely omitted that Google "sponsors" you. That too is mendacious every time, it’s highly relevant information that every person needs to evaluate your bias.

You and Google are ever more openly censors, spies, and indeed, fascists and commies.

By the way: anyone interested should read The Register and comments there on this topic, comparison will show how bizarre Techdirt is.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Right To Be Forgotten, a mere matter of individuals, is on the same planet, yes, but entirely UNlike Chi-Com censoring in kind and degree.

Here’s a fun question for you to consider: When Google is done being purged of results linked to RTBF requests, how long do you think people will wait before filing such requests with the actual news sites which hold the pages that those people want forgotten?

RTBF is an affront to free speech because it has censorious intent from the get-go. To defend it in any way is to defend government-sponsored censorship—a lesser degree of censorship than found in China, yes, but government-sponsored censorship all the same.

Al Khwarizmi says:

The Voldemort Algorithm

I hereby declare the RTBF to be the implementation of the Voldemort Algorithm.

#include <nothing_to_see_here_please_return_to_your_homes.h>
#ignore <all_the_rumours.h>

#pragma_override
#define Voldemort void
#end pragma override

Voldemort main(Voldemort){

find(the_truth);

return the_peoples_rights;
}

Al Khwarizmi says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The Blue boy Algorithm

Technically, yes, Jeremy.

This is not compilable code, but the point is that Voldemort, in this case, does not refer to reaction-hyper-triggering Blue Boy, but the right-to-be-forgotten laws.

If you want to experience a Googlenope, then these laws will help that to happen. You can imagine what Gollum-dogan (Er-Gollum?) would like to do with these.

It’s a pity that blue boy causes such trigger events because a lot of ACs hold views that may not agree with some of the US voting electorate, yet they are not giblet-caressing blue boy, who seems as coherent as a goose in a GE90.

I guess by now you have already googled Al Khwarizmi.

hij (profile) says:

technicians running wild

Google is the saddest stereotype of technologists not being able to see beyond their cubicle. They do not seem to be able to differentiate between the technological differences/challenges and the human impacts. When a company grows to the size and influence of google they need to have people who can grow as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: technicians running wild

Equally fascinating is the piss poor quality of their offered services. If you’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing directly with their APIs you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s as if each employee is allowed to work on their own and just publish whatever they come up with sans any kind of peer review. If they do peer review then I’m even more disappointed in them. Apart from search and perhaps gmail, avoid their product like the plague.

Anonymous Coward says:

All of this is starting to hit ordinary sites. I’ve just taken a long-standing non-commercial transport safety site offline after receiving threatening correspondence from PicRights, demanding payment for images used decades ago by conference speakers in ppt presentations. Clearly a legal scam using crawlers and image comparators to find soft targets. We’re going to lose a lot of public resources like this simply because copyright has become a farce.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Clearly a legal scam

If it’s clearly a legal scam, why are you capitulating.

It’s people like you, who give up without a fight even when they’re within their rights, who destroy things for everyone.

If no one will stand up for their rights, we won’t have any.

Being a citizen includes some responsibilities. One of those is to refuse to be trodden upon.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Clearly a legal scam

If it’s clearly a legal scam, why are you capitulating.

Often there are economic justifications. If fighting costs more than {you can afford,the anticipated return from winning,some other limit} then it may be a sound business decision.

In the case of the non-profit transport safety site posting ancient power points, and disregarding the positive good of eliminating power points, I would see the business decision as comparing zero (income) to non-zero (cost to fight).

Fix the copyright litigation system, which may be a fairly large and difficult task, and you may lower the cost to fight so as to obtain better outcomes.

I have seen cases where “losing” makes more economic sense than winning.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Clearly a legal scam

Without a “fair use” exemption in EU law it’s likely to be a fight and charities are risk-averse. Not my call. But the point was that thanks to those lovely Google tools the first victims of a ‘safe internet’ are going to be public information resources. How many people post a link to a paper contributed by an academic and worry about whether it contains photos which were probably in common use a decade ago but were actually or arguably copyrighted? How would we even know? The only zero risk option is to post – nothing.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Clearly a legal scam

It may indeed be a sound business decision.

Just as it’s a sound personal decision not to vote – because my vote is profoundly unlikely to affect the election result, while for sure it’ll take 45 minutes out of my day.

But good citizens vote anyway.

As I said, being a citizen includes some responsibilities. Above and beyond what’s good for you personally.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

So... how is that "Give ICANN to the world" policy looking now?

I’m sorry folks, the moment that the idea was broached that the AMERICAN internet was going to be subjected to whims of other countries – all of this crap was going to happen. As for ‘international entities’ like Google, Apple, and others in Silicon Valley – they will be more than willing to pimp the American people for 30 pieces of silver, bar none.

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