Google’s alleged development of a censored search engine for China has been in the news lately and not least because many Google employees are very unhappy about the prospect of having been kept in the dark about this project, while others are concerned that they may have unwittingly been working on the special search engine and thus contributing to the suppression of free speech. Google’s management has apparently gone into shut-down mode, not just as regards commenting externally about the project, but internally to its staff as well.
A recent article from The Intercept, which claims to have seen confidential documents, describes how the search engine, code-named Dragonfly, is being developed. The article explains how searches containing queries deemed sensitive – keywords such as democracy, human rights, peaceful protest and so on – will bring back no results.
What happened to Google’s strapline: “do no evil”? Or is Google going to issue a statement which aims to explain why this censored search engine is actually a good thing?
What’s the reality? I see a risk for lots of fake news around this. Speaking of which, are we any better off in the West with our sound-bites and fake news? Aren’t these also a form of censorship – keeping us from the truth? More and more, I find that those I used to view as “authoritative sources” are themselves putting a strong slant on each story or lines of questioning that can’t always be called “objective journalism” so that often when I’ve decided to take the trouble to go and read the full original article that a news story is based around, I find that a very significant amount of context and other points did not get a mention – just the sensationalist headline-makers pulled out. This is nothing new, ’twas ever thus, but the modern difference is the sheer 24/7-in-your-face nature of news. It’s everywhere, all the time.
I vote bringing back “close-down” when broadcasting stations shut down over night. For a start they could do with the rest (and reduced pressure to produce so much drivel) and so could we, but also it would provide some useful thinking time – both for them and us.
Worth mentioning here that it really is worth using other search engines such as Bing and DuckDuckGo, not just to salve your conscience, but also because you may actually get different and better results. I recommend it.
Postscript: I had to come back and add to this post, as it occurred to me that the West isn’t so pretty as far as reliable information goes these days either.