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Tangible Impact of Censorship on Search Engines 110

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hands-on-fun dept.
An anonymous reader writes "NetworkWorld is reporting that Indiana University Informatics researchers have created a site that highlights the differences in query results provided by country-specific search engines. cenSEARCHip looks at engines like the versions of Google and Yahoo built to accommodate free-speech restrictions in China, Germany and France."
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Tangible Impact of Censorship on Search Engines

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  • countries (Score:3, Interesting)

    by heatdeath (217147) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:00PM (#14926799)
    I find their choice of countries amusing. Are these really the only countries that significantly censor the internet? (Or are these the only ones that google cooperates with?)
    • I'll bet they do something in Soviet Russia.
    • Are these really the only countries that significantly censor the internet?

      No.

      (Or are these the only ones that google cooperates with?)

      No. AFAIK, the local Googles cooperate with national laws in all their respective countries. However, in terms of pages filtered, I think Germany and France are some of the more restrictive countries in the West, with their anti-Nazi laws.

      For instance, some countries ban child pornography (possession, not just dissemination), so that material gets filtered in those countrie
    • It looks like they're right. The results ARE being censored. The question is, who is being censored or is there a bug in the meta-search engine?

      Search for 'democracy'
      China: About 309,000,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique)
      United States: About 307,000,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique)
    • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:26PM (#14927029)
      The reason China was singled out is because of their heavy censoring of politically undesireable facts. France and Germany are listed because of anti-Nazi speech laws. Both countries have successfully sued Google to force them to take down such content.

      Now, try using this search on Google and scroll to the bottom: scientology site:xenu.net [google.com]

      Woo-hoo! Land of the free!
      • Can you get me an example of a german search page with censored results? The US page seems to say, "yeah, we can't show /everything/, but here's a link to the takedown page, with all the banned URLs. Enjoy." I'm just curious if the German page is similar, or if it just goes into a black hole.
        • It seems that they do give you a notice: see http://www.google.de/search?hl=de&q=stormfront&btn G=Suche&meta= [google.de] , for example.
          • This makes me curious if that's the actual takedown notice. The one for Scientology has a lot more information regarding exactly what is being taken down. The one for Stormfront just seems to say, "yeah, we had to remove some content." However, more curiously, the noncensored links seem to have been reordered in the searches. Makes me wonder how google eliminates the links - if they just delist, or if they instruct the spider not to even visit the site; any google insiders have more info?
        • Sure. Check out this blog post [outer-court.com] about Google censorship of the violent imagery loving sites Ogrish.com and Rotten.com and the white supremacist site Stormfront.org.

          I feel that they shouldn't be censored, but I always feel a sort of queasy moral indefensibility about that stance when defending the truly repugnant speech. Even so, slippery slopes and all that.
          • I feel that they shouldn't be censored, but I always feel a sort of queasy moral indefensibility about that stance when defending the truly repugnant speech.

            Certainly it's uncomfortable to have to do. Think about it this way: nobody needs a right to free speech to say nice things. Nobody ever went to jail for saying 'Dear me, Fotherington-Thomas, isn't the sky such a lovely blue today?' A right to free speech is only worth having at all if you want to say something that somebody, somewhere, doesn't want y

      • try also: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=kazaalite &btnG=Search [google.com]

        this has been going on since at least 2003. maybe someone should start a website listing those links removed by google* because of DMCA or other censorship issues.

        in fact i may do so. please send info to [my /. username]@gmail.com with "dmca" in the subject line. anyone interested in this potential project can also contact me there. Hey, we might even be able to
        -----------
        the rest of this message has been removed due to a D
      • Sorry but blame google. They took down the links after just a scary letter from a lawyer. No government agency forced them to.
        • Yes, silly us for assuming that the government was the one that made copyright and the DMCA. All along, it was really the scientologist who made it and use force to ensure it exists. Stupid us.
          • Google caved to a threat by a lawyer. You can threaten anyone with a law suite at anytime. What I don't understand is how people can confuse freedom of speech with copyrights issues.
            The site in question was posting copyrighted material. There where LOTS of links to that "blocked" site that was critical of Scientology. The site was not limited in creating any statement that they wanted too. Just can not post material that they didn't own the copyright on.
            Unlike the examples of France, Germany, and China. Not
            • You can threaten anyone with a law suite at anytime.

              Right, and I can threaten you with a lawsuit for making puppies sad. If it weren't for the fact that scientologists have won lawsuits in the past involving copyright and further that the DMCA basically makes it the case that caving in is the easy way out (ie, without the DMCA scientologists could sue Google even after they took whatever links down, since not only would it be a sign that they recognize the copyright violation but further had infringed in t
              • "There where LOTS of links to that "blocked" site that was critical of Scientology.

                And there's lots of links to sites blocked by China."
                Visable in CHINA??? I think not.

                "Unlike the examples of France, Germany, and China. Nothing in US law would prevent that site from saying that they believe that Scientology is a cult and is dangerous.

                Until the Scientologists write a skeptics handbook, copyright it, and then claim sites are copying from it. What better way to use the system?"

                Okay you do know that is just nut
                • >>And there's lots of links to sites blocked by China.

                  >Visable in CHINA??? I think not.

                  There you go, adding extra qualifiers. I'd assume lots of links to blocked sites are visible in China, simply because news organizations end up pointing out sites that are blocked and the great Chinese firewall is still limited to humans blacklisting stuff. So, Google removing links just makes it harder for external to China mirrors from being easily found through Google. Sounds pretty similar to the situation
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Either google of the operator of http://www.xenu.net/ [xenu.net] is wussing out.

        From uscode TITLE 17 > CHAPTER 1 > 107:

        "Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

        -- Bold emphisis
    • These countries are officially censoring something.

      The German constitution for example does say that "there is no censorship, but..." and then there are some exceptions.

      The US, on the other hand, are censoring without anyone knowing it...

      Take your pick, but I'd prefer Germany over the US.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:05PM (#14926848)
    Europe needs to recognize that free speech means free speech for everyone, especially the loathsome, or it's going to wind up with a problem soon. What exactly kind of message does it send that racial agitation against arabs is being championed and celebrated as a "we must do this to demonstrate we have freedom of speech" kind of thing-- at the same time that search engines are being censored, and people are being arrested for writing books? It says that being a fascist racist is okay in europe, unless you're the wrong kind of fascist racist.

    Is that "European Court of Human Rights" thing just a total paper tiger, or what?
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:06PM (#14927426)
      racial agitation against arabs ... fascist racist

      I assume you're referring to the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, published in Jylland-Posten, and later circulated in the Middle-East by some imams trying to whip up an artificial controversy?

      If so, then I have to ask whether you've actually seen them. Here they are [muhammadcartoons.com]. I can't see anything there that's racist. Some are critical of Jylland-Posten itself, referring to the whole thing as a publicity stunt. Some are critical of militant Islam. One - with the schoolboy, whose name apparently happens to be Muhammad - seems quite optimistic about integration and multicultural coexistence.

      The only ones that anyone could conceivably take offence at are the ones criticising Islam or certain sects of Islam. But Islam is not a race, it's a religion, an ideology. Ideologies can never be said to be beyond criticism. Was it racist against Russians to criticise the ideas, the founders, and the results of Communism?

    • Europe needs to recognize that free speech means free speech for everyone, especially the loathsome, or it's going to wind up with a problem soon. ...As if a (sub)continent of 25-30 countries with half a billion people can be expected to have homogenous views and legislation on everything.

      What exactly kind of message does it send that racial agitation against arabs is being championed and celebrated as a "we must do this to demonstrate we have freedom of speech" kind of thing-- at the same time that search
  • by DarkNemesis618 (908703) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:06PM (#14926853) Homepage
    Just misspell what you're looking for...worked for the Chinese...
  • by luvirini (753157) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:06PM (#14926857)
    Does the thing highlight those also?
  • by klenwell (960296) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `llewnelk'> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:10PM (#14926887) Homepage Journal
    with no one around... does it exist?

    I've always been amused by search result comparisons -- especially when they compare total results since most results beyond the first 1000 (as in the case of Google or Yahoo) are inaccessible.

    What's the point, for instance, of Google saying there are 16,000,000 results for your query when they will only show you the first 700? I think this is even true of their API.

    Incidentally, if for some reason you need to quickly find the last known google result, there's always http://www.lastgoogle.com/ [lastgoogle.com].
    • Good grief. Just tried http://www.lastgoogle.com/ [lastgoogle.com] with the first word that came into my head - random, with just a hint of personal topicality - 'hunger'. And lo... http://ebony-hunger.shepherd.net/ [shepherd.net]

      Truly, Alpha to Omega, and all in between...

    • > What's the point, for instance, of Google saying there are 16,000,000 results for your query when they will only show you the first 700? I think this is even true of their API.

      The API work on a subset of the full index.

      For example: search for "car" on the site. It shows a total of 1,480,000,000

      now fire some python code and search for "car" trhu the api

      you will get 1/1000 of the site total... or less! as it's change from request to request.

      I had code to get the first 100 results, so i did several searc
    • Hi, this is offtopic, but the behavior is similar to many commerical search engines. If your query is too broad, you are getting too many results. The assumption is that if there too many documents, then the query term is not that relevant; therefore, you need to modify the query and reduce the recall. Example: If searching for 'moo' returns you 100,000,000 results, then 'moo' is a common term and chances are that the result #10,000 will never been seen by a user.

      Please remember that there is a difference

      • Well, in this case you buy special software that is tweaked to return all of the results. I am dead serious. This is what law firm use. You search, get results, save them on a DVD (with all the relevant stuff) or whatever you have and that is it :)

  • Silly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xnot (824277) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:11PM (#14926901)
    Messages are always censored to some degree, becauses ultimately, some system has to decide which messages get through. Either that system is a computer that uses some algorithm, or it's a human who manually decides. Usually it's the popular message that gets through, regardless if the message is accurate or not.

    Ultimately it comes down to your level of trust in whatever system is doing the filtering. What most people don't get is there's almost always some "non-partial" element to messages. News media can't report on messages that the government deems as critical to national security. And now we are finding the same thing with google. And people are suprised?

    • News media can't report on messages that the government deems as critical to national security. And now we are finding the same thing with google. And people are suprised?

      Sure. The point of the internet is that it's an international resource. Suppose that, say, the son of a cabinet minister has been caught offering to supply an undercover reporter from the Daily Mirror with a small quantity of cannabis. And, continuing this entirely hypothetical situation, let us suppose that the Government has hurriedly

  • by maharg (182366) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:12PM (#14926911) Homepage Journal
    China 69,600 US 3,450,000

    children cries falun gong tears unheard unseen

    I'd have thought that China wouls be encouraging webpages talking about Falun Gong in such glowing terms. Bizarre.
    • I did a search on falun gong, first on images, which was interestnig. Then just "web search." Result:

      China:
      action affected bureau chief china chinese civil cult denouncing education engineer evil experts falun gong gong's hijacking leading movie news ni professor programs radio related report said satellite sept signals special television transmission tv xinhua xinhuanet

      United States:
      1999 according april article articles body ccp china chinese communist considered crackdown cultivation dafa dharma edit fa f
      • huh ? I just did the search again and got the following for the US, similar to what you got but different again:

        1999 a.m abilities article articles assistant beings bodies body buddha circuit consciousness crackdown cultivate cultivation dafa dan edit energy exercises fa heavenly high law level levels li main meridians method methods mind-intent movement one's order passed person person's practice practitioner practitioners public qigong school society supernormal torture universe xinxing york

        google results
    • > I'd have thought that China wouls be encouraging webpages talking about Falun Gong in such glowing terms. Bizarre.

      Actually, the Chinese govt strongly disapproves of Falun Gong, and has been cracking down very hard on it for some time. You can read more about this if you search Google for "chinese government falun gong" [google.com] or "china falun gong" [google.com] etc., as long as you're using Google from outside of China.

      The Chinese govt also maintains an official anti-Falun Gong website [china.com.cn], though it's unreachable from he

  • by benjjj (949782) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:13PM (#14926918)
    China! I got 309,000,000 hits for democracy there, and only 307,000,000 in the US. The only possible explanation is that China is more free than the USA.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:17PM (#14926953)
    I did a few sample searches on CENSEARCHIP, here were some of the larger discrepancies and interesting results I found:

    ----Compare Google results between China and United States:

    Censor Chinese Internet
    China: About 810,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique) United States: About 7,140,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique)

    Censor Chinese
    China: About 1,790,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique) United States: About 11,700,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique)

    Human Rights
    China: About 879,000,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique) United States: About 878,000,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique)

    Jack Daniel's
    China: About 1,800,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique) United States: About 68,700,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique)

    xxx
    China: About 108,000,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique) United States: About 107,000,000 results (Fetching first 10 unique)
  • by ExE122 (954104) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:31PM (#14927073) Homepage Journal
    While these results are pretty neat, are they taking into account the fact that search AIs have developed differently? The AI refines the results based on what links people commonly follow when results are returned.

    A search on Tiananmen Square, for example, results in many text references and images of the Chinese government crackdown on protesters in 1989 on the U.S. search site, but mainly hotel and tourist information on the Chinese version

    Case in point. People in China are more likely to want to visit Tiananmen, and therefore would likely click on more links for hotels and tourist attractions. People in the U.s. are less likely to be interested in travelling there, and more likely to look up the history associated with it.

    I looked up "Wyoming" in both Chinese and U.S. googles (not using this site, but actually using google with the Chinese translation of Wyoming). The Chinese site brought up a Wiki entry, a site showing history and demographics, and another page showing its famous landmarks... stuff that people in China might be more interested in. The U.S. site brought up the official Wyoming state government website, the official local travel website, and the University of Wyoming website... stuff that people in the U.S. would be more interested in.

    Looking further down, the chinese site brings up more about history and international travel, while the U.S. site brings up more about hunting, skiing, local state departments, etc.

    I also looked up Tiananmen Square in an image search, and yes, the first couple pages do indeed show nothing of protests. But its not like its completely blocked, the tanks show up a few pages down.

    One thing I noticed in doing my own comparisons is that Censearchip is only showing you the first unique differnces. On some simple searches, those differences don't even show up for a couple pages... the results are more or less the same.

    Now before everyone goes jumping down my back... I'm not arguing that there's no censorship, because I know its a proven point that there is. And I do think that this site is indeed indicative of that. I just think that there is a possibility that some of these measures aren't completely accurate and that there are other factors involved.

    --
    "Man Bites Dog
    Then Bites Self"
  • China: About 61,400,000 results United States: About 61,200,000 results
  • What isn't being seen for the trees is that the forest, for the first time, is visible to everyone on the web. For the first time we can relatively easily peek and poke into one another's cultural biases and make a variety of inter/intra comparisons.

    As governments struggle to literally get a grip on the world web, the world web citizenry is building a new hierarchy of cultural cross development.

    We can individually and collectively point fingers at one another, but the greater fact is that we have in place a

  • To steal a joke from their comments, "it's just like the good old days!"

    At some point, quite recently, our popular site "The People's Cube" (ThePeoplesCube.com) was purged from Google search results. MSN , Yahoo and other search engines still have it - but Google has erased/blocked any link to the site in its database...

    http://thepeoplescube.com/red/viewtopic.php?t=637 [thepeoplescube.com]

    • Googling "the people's cube" at google.ca, google.co.jp, and google.com yield pretty the same result: the satire site with a persecution complex is listed second.

      Purged? I think not.

  • If you search for the "Dalai Lama" on google china, you pretty much get redirected to a page saying what a criminal the Dalai Lama is. http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=6984 [yale.edu] Though you probably already knew that. Doesn't seem to work from a western IP though.
  • A search for the keywords: linux install Chinese yielded relevant results. American yielded viagra.
  • The site returns nonsensical results now. (Maybe as a consequence of the Slashdot effect?)
    But the number of sites returned for China and the U.S. for the phrase "tiananmen square massacre" is dramatically different.
     
  • Did it occur to the guys behind censearchip that the overwhelmingly vast majority of Chinese web content is written in Chinese? With that in mind, I wonder how meaningful it is to compare search results of English keywords such as democracy or Tiananmen. Try these:
  • Try googling on "George Bush nutcase" with Windows XP and the 'no filtering' option set and you'll probably get about 198,000 hits. Now try on another platform and you could get as many as 203,000 hits.
  • Aparently, the political censorship taking place for Google users in China results in making porn easier to find.

    Comparing China and US with the search phrase "teen girls" results in the following unique word lists...

    For China...
    animal aqua beastiality bestiality blowjobs breeds brunette cheerleader cheerleaders com cum cute dog farm force fucked fucking galleries hardcore horse hunter masturbating mature milf milfhunter milfs models petite porn posing pussy rape schoolgirl seeker series shaved showing spre
  • try searching for a term (any term) between the US and US versions (or any other country and itself), not only are the number of results radically different in some cases, but the tag clouds are also often totally different.
    How are we supposed to "explore the differences in the results returned by different countries' versions of the major search engines" (TFA) if the results returned by identical countries' versions of the major search engines are not the same?

    seems from this that the results returned by t
  • Try this: set the engine to Yahoo, the first country to France, and the search term to "hitler". The biggest fonted word under France is "bush" ... and "nazi" isn't even on the list.

    Food for thought or just curious?
  • by Easy2RememberNick (179395) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @07:23PM (#14928703)
    I'd like to see a search comparison between the US and Canada (and other Western nations). I know in the past major stories on such topics as Cuba, Mad Cow and Marijuana were not even mentioned on US TV news or in major newspapers. It's amazing how much your news is controlled, and you probably don't even realize it.
  • Just for grins, I entered "anal sex" at the CENSEARCHIP site and hit "Image Search."

    Results:

    China: About 855 results
    United States: About 683,000 results

    The images retrieved and displayed were, to say the least, markedly different.

    One would think a country with mandatory birth control would want its citizens to know all about about non-reproductive sex techniques, and encourage them.

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