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November 25, 2008

Googling for tanks in China

Here’s an odd thing.

I was sure that when Google China first started cleansing its results, a search for “tiananmen” at Google Images did not return the famous photo of the man standing in front of the line of tanks, or other photos of the Tiananmen demonstrations.

Today it does.

Even odder, I was talking with Lokman Tsui of the Berkman Center about this, and he discovered that if you search for “tiananmen” using the Chinese characters (天安门), you don’t get back photos of the demonstrations but sanitized, post-card-ish touristy photos.

On purpose? Fluke? A crack in the structure of control?

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November 24, 2008

Chinese won’t let blogger travel

Rebecca MacKinnon reports that the Chinese government has refused to let citizen journalist blogger Zhou Shuguang (known as Zola) travel outside the country. This is not the first time he’s faced the Chinese authorities. This time, he twittered it as it was happening.

Rebecca posts: “I just communicated with Zola online. I asked him how he’s feeling – he said he’s tired but he feels ok, isn’t stressed.” She is concerned, however, as we all should be.

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November 22, 2008

Our strange new home

I’ve published a new issue of my free newsletter

Our strange new home: A talk to the people in the Chinese government designing ways to use the Net to deliver government services.

Has the Internet been saved?: Obama’s appointments to head the FCC transition team fill me with joy.

The main article is the text of a talk I gave a few weeks ago in Beijing at a one-day seminar/conference for the people in the Chinese government who are putting together sites — portals, usually — to provide government services. These were, I was told, the government people most excited about the opportunities brought by an open Internet. I gave the closing keynote. The previous speakers, from China, S. Korea and Denmark, had expanded the audience’s practical imaginations. I would’ve if I could’ve. Instead, I tried to resolve the seeming contradiction and doubtless cross-cultural meaninglessness that the Internet is weird and the Internet feels homey. It occurred to me afterward that that is the theme of Small Pieces Loosely Joined.

You can read it here.

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June 2, 2008

Global corporate village? Maybe not so much

John Yunker telling points out — and documents with screen captures — that global corporations often marked their Chinese home pages with signs of mourning for those lose in the recent earthquake, while their non-Chinese pages remained dressed in their business-as-usual designs. (He has some more screen captures here.)

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May 24, 2008

A moment of Google silence

The China Vortex runs the search log for Google China that dramatically shows the three minutes of silence China observed on May 19th in remembrance of those who died in the earthquake. It is, eerily, like the inverse of a seismograph.

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April 8, 2008

Obama in China (and how to read Global Voices)

This is a Google-automated translation of the Baidu page on Obama. (Baidu is the Chinese search engine.)

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Ethan Zuckerman says his favorite way to browse GlobalVoices is through the digests page. [Tags: ]

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February 4, 2008

Class Notes #3

A student in each session of The Web Difference will blog the class, so I’m not going to live blog the course, which I could only do when John Palfrey is leading it, as he is today. So, what follows are some some notes and comments. (The class notes will be up on the site tomorrow, probably.)

JP explains the “layer” view: Infrastructure, Logic, Apps, Content. He indicates that the layers are messy and that this is over-simplified. But I’m struck by the layer-cake look of this, with each tier slightly narrower than the one beneath it. Presumably, this is so the structure will look sturdy. But if it were drawn to scale, the content layer would be like a frisbee balanced on a pin.

The main topic today is whether you can see the same Internet from anywhere in the world. Answer: No, you can’t. JP points to Internet Services Unit where you can report sites to the Saudi government as deserving to be blocked. The Saudis block by having a single big pipe out to the Internet. Everything has to flow through the Saudi proxy. The Chinese filter similarly but also at every layer of the stack.

JP points to a site that compares the results of Google searches run here and in China. In poking around during the class, we discover that Chinese language searches seem to get the same results whether you’re searching from google.com or google.cn, as if google.com is assuming that if you are looking for search terms in Chinese, you want to see the censored results. Odd.

John takes the class through the many, many ways countries can filter the Net. Then he leads a discussion of which elements of a society might be interested in either filtering the Net or keeping it open.

John is going to Turkey tonight for talks with various interested parties there about the virtues and vices of maintaining an open Internet. [Tags: ]

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