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Google Images China on Tiananmen vs. Our Images of Ourselves

Filed under: Knowledge Management,Search — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

This is interesting, you’ve read about the bizarre combo of Google refusing to give up US search documentation on one hand but agreeing to censor what Chinese users can see at the behest of the Chinese government on the the other hand. Check out what Google China users see when they do an image search for Tienanmen. That’s a popular page to link to in the blogsphere today.

Witness the shocking difference between that and, for example, a US Google user’s image search results for Christopher Columbus. Comparably benign, are they not?

So while it would be no small technological achievement for Google to successfully hide the images that the rest of the world associates with Tiananmen from the Chinese people themselves, I would contend that they still have a ways to go before they can rival the scale of cultural “information organization”/obfuscation that goes on all the time in the United States.

Like what? US history aside even, how about the following:

  • “Current estimates are that $500 billion to $1 trillion in illegal funds are laundered through banks worldwide each year, with about half going through U.S. financial institutions.” US Senator Carl Levin
  • “Trafficking of women and children for the sex industry and for labor is prevalent in all regions of the United States. An estimated 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually to the United States…” From Cia.gov
  • “The U.S. has the largest per capita prison and jail population in the Western industrialized world, with approximately 2 million inmates…As Americans continue to recoil at the sight of photographs and videotapes showing handcuffed prisoners piled naked on top of one another, being bitten by dogs, being sexually exploited and subjected to other forms of debasing abuse at the Abu-Ghraib prison in Iraq, human rights advocates say similar constitutional violations occur on a regular basis in United States prisons.” via Common Dreams.

We may be able to find these things on the internet in the US (the fact that they are true is bad enough) but how often do we discuss or consider them? Isn’t the effect similar at least?
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