Interview with [media house] regarding [apparent Google censor problem]

On 1 Feb 2006, at 15:59 [NAME] wrote:


This stuff is great! Congrats. []

Thank you.

I want to write a story about it, and I have some questions for somebody over there.


How did you figure this out, was it a caps lock snafu?

A friend mentioned the observation to me via instant-messenger; the inference of what is going on is something that just seemed obvious – indeed I believe that it’d be obvious to anyone with a background in security programming.

This leads us neatly into your next question, which probably should be dealt with jointly with the one immediately following…

Have others tried this, and also beaten the censor software? Has Google contacted you or anybody there, and what’s transpired?

Others have reported similar censor-work-arounds based around mis-spellings, slang and so forth. Check Slashdot for references to other people with similar observations.

Consider the challenge: if you put aside questions of ethics, what Google seek to achieve in order to operate in China is a task not unlike trying to push water uphill.

They’d have to block searches to pages which contain banned words, mis-spellings of banned words, multilingual versions of banned words, mis-spellings of multilingual versions of banned words, slang names for banned words, and so on. They are setting themselves up against a cultural tide.

To achieve 100% effectiveness the task would be immense – the rules would have to evolve daily, the culture would need to be tracked – so from a pragmatic perspective I can only personally suppose that Google do not aspire to (nor one presumes are contracted to deliver) 100% effective censorship. Perhaps this means something, or perhaps I’m wrong – but I wouldn’t like to have been the person signing the contract in the latter instance.

Regards other techniques, I satisfied myself that the software was aware of the French, Italian, Spanish and German spellings of the word “Democracy” last night, so that particular avenue of exploitation is probably not open, but doubtless others are so.

Regards “contact” – I wouldn’t expect anyone to contact me because the overarching problem is fairly obvious, and the plausible ramifications are likewise to anyone who understands the corporate world. That an apparent (and presumably temporary) implementational goof serves to highlight the issue so well, is purely ironic.

A call here in SF at ///-///-////, or an email reply, in the next hour or so would be most appreciated. My deadline’s 10 a.m. PDT today, but I’d welcome a reply any time.

Oops. Sorry about that. I’m trying to have a real life. Thanks!


…a caps-lock snafu?…

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