Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We'll see how long this lasts

A search of "tiananmen 1989" on Google.cn currently returns these results:

This is a direct refutation of a Globe and Mail article yesterday that said:

When you type in “Tiananmen Square affair 1989,” entered in Chinese on google.cn, the search returns a single link – the official Xinhua news agency's dry and bloodless account of the “clearing” of the students camping on the square on June 4 of that year.

That result is followed by a line all too familiar to Google users in China: “According to local laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not shown.”

The line, “According to local laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not shown," is still there (据当地法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示), but as you can see from the screenshots above, Google's defiance has been laid bare.

China's non-response is curious and, frankly, a bit unnerving. "High stakes brinkmanship" is how Reuters describes the situation, and I think that's about right. How much will China allow Google to push?

Stay tuned. I'm working on an article for City Weekend on this topic at the moment, so I'll have more to say later.

POSTSCRIPT: I've been told that the Globe and Mail hasn't had anyone on the ground in China since December. There's a lesson to be learned here for journalists and organizations that purport to do journalism, but I'll let others articulate it.

And in case you're wondering: yes, I did turn off my VPN before conducting the previous search.

UPDATE: Doing the same search in Chinese produces radically different results. Of course. (A head-slap/doh moment for me here.)

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