If you type the words democracy, religion or human rights, while connected to the internet in China, your results will be limited to just a basic description of the words. China’s authoritative government censors and controls the internet usage of over 750 million users. The Great Firewall of China performs large-scale gatekeeping and internet censorship functions within the territories of the People’s Republic of China. Hence, doesn’t the word ‘republic’ definitely stand as an irony in a state that is devoid of freedom of any sorts?
Internet censorship aided by Google
State suppression in China reaches new heights with internet giant, Google developing a version of its search engine that will conform to Chinese censorship laws. A whistleblower revealed to the online news website ‘The Intercept’, that the censored version of Google will filter websites and search terms that are blacklisted by the Chinese government. The modified search engine will block a majority of websites along with the information on sensitive subjects such as democratic movements, citizen protests, democracy and other social causes. The project by Google called Dragonfly will also include mobile apps. Such a censored form of Google will complement the prevailing internet censorship in China, that in fact offers zero results for searches on Chinese military brutality. Even the Tiananmen Square massacre, pro-democratic sites, information on Dalai Lama, Taiwan and Tibetian independence remain non-existent on the Chinese internet. With an aim to quell political dissent, the Chinese government has also blocked media sites like Facebook, BBC, New York Times, Youtube and Instagram among others.
Google’s saga in China began in 2006 when it launched Google.cn. However, in 2010, Google shut down its search engine in the state on account of Chinese cyber attack against Google and 20 other US companies. The company also stated that it was against the government’s attempts to limit freedom on the web. It later released an uncensored Chinese language search platform in Hong Kong.
Since 2010, China’s censorship and surveillance of the internet have aggravated with stringent cyber security laws. So if Google was against China’s internet suppression in the past, why is it supporting it now?
Google defeating internet morality
The chief objective of technology is to benefit the society and contribute towards the public good. Internet, being one of the most powerful weapons of technology should empower mankind by enriching people’s lives. Internet must uphold an individual’s right to freedom and autonomy and also promote human rights. Unfortunately, by joining hands with the Chinese government and approving their censorship norms, Google is surrendering freedom of information for the sake of profit. By not complying with the principles of internet freedom, Google is abdicating its ethical values and showing concern only about its business.
In a communist state such as China, the population is barred from expressing their opinions due to lack of freedom of speech. The government restrictions on their day to day activities and internet habits curtails their ability to obtain worldwide knowledge. Internet censorship restrains its citizens from gaining exposure to practices outside of their state and blinds them from the values of liberal ideologies. In such a situation, how can Google assist the government by designing a technology that will further oppress Chinese people through internet censorship? By aligning with China’s internet censorship guidelines, Google is giving credence to its repressive laws.
China’s widespread censorship
Manipulation of social media and internet search results to suppress freedom and defeat public outcry against the government is inherent in Chinese politics. In July 2018, the state blocked information regarding British comedian John Oliver, after he ridiculed Chinese President Xi Jinping in one of his jokes. Recently, the character Winnie the Pooh was also blocked following a meme that compared Xi Jinping to the animated bear.
Even citizen movements are quashed with serious consequences. In January. 2018, the #MeToo movement emerged in Chinese colleges with women protesting against sexual misconduct by university officials. But the government was quick to react and put an end to it.
The Chinese government has not only curtailed the power of mass media by censoring its content but also restricted the extent to which its citizens can use social media to express themselves. Thus by collaborating with China, Google is adding the final nail in the coffin. A censored Google will completely shut down free speech, influence citizens with filtered information, and forbid them from accessing truth.
Power of the internet
Internet and social media played a significant role during the Arab Spring, and the revolutions in Libya, North Africa, Euromaidan protests in Ukraine and the Occupy Wall Street movement. These revolutions gained momentum and mass support only because of the internet. Blogs and other social media platforms were used by protesters and activists to educate the public and garner unity against the authoritative regimes. Hence the internet has transformative potential – a force that has crushed dictatorship in the past. This is one of the main reasons why the Chinese government is against internet freedom – to prevent its population from posing danger to the government. So by collaborating with the Chinese government and offering censored content to its citizens, Google is putting a closure to all their possibilities of obtaining authentic information. This is a violation of their human rights. Censored information will also reduce the opportunity of the Chinese to expand their knowledge and learn about issues within the government. Such a confined environment in the 21st century, that is against individual freedom is outrageous. And now we have Google nurturing such a cause.
Google’s support to the pervasive censorship functions in China is a victory for its authoritative system. Google by being an accomplice to such repression will whet the appetite of tyrants in other parts of the world. This will result is the annihilation of individual freedom and liberty that was promised by the digital revolution. Google’s censored and filtered search results will only strengthen the Chinese government’s propaganda.
Picture Credits : supchina.com