Google in China: a censored search engine is happening

Chauncey: Welcome to the Being Found Show. We are the local business guide to being found online by more buying customers. I’m your host Chauncey Haworth here with Jake Hinton. We’re going to hit a little bit of news here. You know there’s a lot of political views that can come out of this and frankly I don’t really care what they are we just kind of want to cover what’s actually going on with Google. We are so incredibly dependent on this company you know, and it’s all over and the news that it should be broken up, or should it be split up because it is a monopoly.

It’s hard to define a company as being a monopoly when they’re all over the place. That’s like saying Disney is a monopoly or Coca-Cola. I mean is there a monopoly on chips or even of soda or water? You know so Google is like literally all over the place, and they are not a monopoly on search. They do have a competitor, Bing, that is rising. While it’s only at maybe 20 percent at best, it is growing in its popularity. So I don’t know if it counts as a monopoly, but we’re going to let Jake explain this a little bit better because I think he has a better understanding. So Google has partnered with the government in China to create a search engine for China.

Jake: Yeah. So to be clear, I don’t want to sound like a weirdo here. I think they’re a great company and they’ve done great things in the last 20 years. I think they’re making a huge mistake right now. They have partnered with the government of China on this project to create a new search engine for China. It’s called Project DragonFly which is a good name. But what the search engine is doing is it connects every person’s searches to some piece of personal information so that when they search they have to enter their personal information, and then they get a search. This is terrible because the government is linking every search to an individual and making things a little bit worse, they’ve got these social scorecards.

Chauncey: Well hang on. Before we get into how freaky some of this is, you know one big thing that a lot of Americans are going to scoff at a little bit is that the government has access to deny any search results from this thing. The government can say that information doesn’t get to be shown.

Jake: Yeah that’s another piece of it. As is let’s say Chauncey started the website, Freaky Sausage Fingers. And the U.S. government said no we do not like this website, shut it down and stop everyone in the country from ever reaching that site again.

Chauncey: So regardless of what side of net neutrality you’re on this has nothing to do with that. This is like straight up government censorship of what we’re going to allow. So this not only allows the government to censor information which we would be all weirded out about but it also allows the government to manipulate their markets by denying businesses basically by denying businesses from out of the country and all sorts of crazy stuff that comes from controlling information.

Jake: It would be total control of information. I mean consider a website in America. You have the right to make a website that talks bad about the U.S. government and that’s a right you have. Well in China if you were to do that the government would shut your website down.

Chauncey: And you would probably never be heard from again. So now the second freaky part about this is what you’re saying is that to use it you have to enter your personal information. All of your search histories are collected, and they know exactly what you’re up to. So what is this scorecard thing you were talking about?

Jake: That’s right. It’s called a social scorecard, and essentially the government puts you on a list, and they say what you are from a 1 to a 10. If you’re a 10, you’re the perfect Chinese citizen, and you’re doing great. You look at only good websites. You obviously love your government, and you’re a contributing member of society. If your social scorecard gets too low, someone might pay you a visit there to say you need to reconsider what you are searching online or you’ll get a black bag put over your head right.

Chauncey: Yeah whenever I think of that I think of this movie Brazil. They actually come in and zip them up in the bag and like cinch him shut, stick a piece of paperwork on him and hand his wife the receipt.

Jake: So far all of the references I’m making are from V for Vendetta, black bagging and shooting them and such.

Chauncey: I haven’t seen that movie in a long time. But we were just talking about it the other day that I want to see it again. So politics aside, this is just crazy town for the United States for people here to be imposed with these sorts of things. Well, I think it’s almost entirely an episode of Black Mirror only it’s actually going on.

Jake: Yeah and I guess to kind of bring it back to what we talk about here, the technology, Google is an American company has agreed to create this for what is not so arguably a great government. They attempt to control everything about the people. That’s all there is to it. So I think Google kind of screwed up here.

Chauncey: There’s been a big uprising with their with their employees.

Jake: Internally there has been a lot of issues like people refusing to work on it or people trying to kind of whistle blow about the whole thing.

Chauncey: Just to make it extra fun, didn’t Google change their slogan?

Jake: They did, and I don’t know if they did this on purpose or it was just by coincidence. So for the last 20 years since their inception, their slogan has always been “Don’t Be Evil” which is a great slogan for someone who controls so much information by happenstance or on purpose. They changed their slogan during the whole creation of this Chinese search engine to Google values. I guess Don’t Be Evil just didn’t fit in with the new plan.

Chauncey: There’s a lot of ambiguity with Google values now. Does Google value its customers or do we follow Google’s values, whatever they are? Whatever fits, just like with any big business you know maybe they do some good, and maybe they do some bad. But I agree with you that this is probably not in the best interest of any U.S. company. And I’m surprised that it isn’t more in the news.

Jake: Yeah me too. I mean maybe they just haven’t caught wind of it. I mean I don’t know.

Chauncey: It’s OK. I don’t expect you to know everything about everything this year. But do you know how far along in the process we are, is it something that they maybe back out of or are we definitely there?

Jake: So from what I understand it’s in testing like maybe beta right now.

Chauncey: So they’ve invested money in it to follow through. All right tell me that’s not freaky.

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