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Is Google censoring searches now?

There is an interesting post on ZDnet. an 'anonymous reader' did a quick search for the terms 'google spyware privacy'. The results:

Yahoo:   48,500,000 for 'google spyware privacy'

MSN:     14,800,000 for 'google spyware privacy'

Google:     409,000 for 'google spyware privacy'.

It looks like Yahoo's search engine is far superior for this particular query with over 100 times the results of google on the google spyware search. Even MSN scored 28 times the google score.  Funny about that.

There are two possible conclusions that spring to mind:

1. google may be censoring search results - should they rename it goggle?.

2. google search is inferior to Yahoo and MSN.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

And for all of you who don't care that your experience is being manipulated, by all means go like lambs to the slaughter, but don't force the rest of us to do it too.

Freedom of thought, speech and expression is at stake here. It's more than just the future of google.



the extent of google censorship is not precicely known however researchers have  reported that the BBC site, for instance, has 2.25 million fewer results when you search on than when you search on Of course they do that to keep their Chinese partners happy, but there is no doubt going to be some further discussion in at least the U.S Congress. I suspect a Democrat(ic) U.S. government may be averse to encouraging further censorship be it for non-democratic political or business purposes.

Even if you don't have particularly strong views on politics the thought of a super-google-yahoo machine deciding what you may or may not read or say should ring alarm bells.


I had a response from a blogger on a googley type blog who suggested that google just has fewer better quality results.

I was offered these results as evidence:

Query [microsoft spyware privacy]
Google: 5,840,000 results
Microsoft; 24,100,000 results
Yahoo: 69,500,000 results

Query: [yahoo spyware privacy]
Google: 320,000 results
Microsoft: 7,730,000 results
Yahoo: 34,200,000 results

I declined to blindly accept that this implies google's results are higher quality and I suggested that I might like to decide for myself what is relevant when I type in a search term, and I certainly don't want some advertiser deciding for me.

What do you think?


Comments: (8)

Amit  Sharma
Amit Sharma - Emotion Associates - Nottingham 15 September, 2008, 11:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi Dean - I have to be honest - my first thought as well was that it may just be down to the quality of Google's results.

However, since Google censorship isnt without precendent (CHINA); its quite difficult to find out one way or the other. Quite possibly a combination of both.


A Finextra member
A Finextra member 15 September, 2008, 16:10Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Therein lies the problem.

It's certainly worth thinking about where we want go with this web thing.

The idealists lean towards where WE want to go. Advertisers (and others) have a different idea.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 16 September, 2008, 09:52Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Wow. Paranoia running riot here! A quick reminder, guys: the reason that Google is so successful is because of the quality of its searches (and its advertising model, of course). When you're searching, quality is the opposite of quantity. Before Google, searching on altavista or yahoo would yield a vast list of hits that you'd have to laboriously trawl through to find what you were looking for. Google is massively superior in filtering the results and narrowing them down to what you are probably looking for (ranked using the brilliantly scalable pagerank algorithm, of course). Pretty much anything you search for in Google will yield fewer results than other search engines -- that's what's so good about it. Dean says "I might like to decide for myself what is relevant when I type in a search term". In that case, Dean, don't use Google -- type in URLs at random until you find what you're looking for.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 17 September, 2008, 16:41Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

1. I'm reasonable in my approach to be skeptical of a company which imagines, let alone published anything like the original Chrome user agreement.

2. When that company is already the most capable tracking and behavioural marketing machine ever developed I am reasonable to think it might be excessive.

3. When they seek to form a partnership with their only real potential competitor I have concerns about a monopoly.

4. When they indiscriminately censor the web on behalf of non-democratically elected governments for political purposes in order to increase corporate profits whilst assisting with oppression - it is worthy of discussion, or at least a little thought.

5. When they are bringing out a phone with the main priority being that they can data-mine the user's communication, it is worthy of discussion.

It's called rational analysis, not paranoia.

No matter what sort of well deserved warm fuzzy feelings you may hold for the boys from the garage, and however much you may trust them, there is no guarantee they'll always be steering the google ship.

Nokia don't monitor my communications or read my email (like Gmail do) in order to target ads at me and I haven't noticed it with the Blackberry either, I'm not sure about iPhone but if they send me one I'll have a look.

I neither want my phone butting in whenever I say keyword, nor do I want it spruiking the benefits of every business as I pass by.

The other age old problem is that if google is intercepting all my actions, thoughts and secrets then there is little to stop anyone doing so using their mechanism, or harvesting their data, or buying it.

I simply don't need more targeted adverts that badly.


James Tomaney
James Tomaney - Renovite Technologies Inc - Edinburgh 18 September, 2008, 21:04Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Is this a case of maths over logic?  1/2 million results or 24 million results - either is several orders of magnitude more than anyone can deal with.  It may well indicate some degree of selection, but every other form of media in our lives is subject to some form of subjective filtering - so what's your point?

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 18 September, 2008, 23:13Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

32 million results from a search engine take a bit of time to evaluate, even at 15 seconds a view. Actually, we might even have a bit of trouble assimilating the 320 thousand returned by Google. Have we reached the stage where the number of hits defines how good a search engine is? This sounds a bit like Nixon picking up a report and saying, this is a heavy report, it must be good.

Personally, I look through the first page or two of search results, then usually try a different set of keys. In this case I'm deliberately ignoring the other 1.6 million pages. I don't feel that my liberties are threatened.

I presume that's why people pay to ensure they are in those first few pages.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 19 September, 2008, 05:44Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Subjective filtering.

Perhaps if you see it as like the lady at the library deciding which books you will be able to choose from out of their complete catalogue and whether particular books will even appear in your view of the catalogue?

Perhaps the Library of Congress decides you don't need to know about a whole range of subjects in certain books in the library and decides to omit them from your particular view of the library catalogue?

Research. How can someone research a topic properly if the (re)search is a(n) (unknown) subset of the whole.

Do we know which subset?

Food for thought. Regurgitating unknown subsets of the unknown subset doesn't qualify as research.

Choosing a cut-off point based on whether your advertising appears in the site might also be tempting.

..but of course they'll provide those non profit results in preference to their paying advertisers.

It's a matter of personal choice which search engine you use -

               just so long as there is more than one...


A Finextra member
A Finextra member 23 September, 2008, 12:54Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Is Google censoring ?

Of course - and there are other proof points than those highlighted in this discussion so far.

Just go to Google Maps and search for Georgia. You'll get just one result, which is pertaining to the US State of Georgia. No, you want that other Georgia where they recently had a small war ... so you may remember their capital by the name of Tiblisi and enter that. No real match, just three literature links faintly suggesting that such a city might actually exist.

You still want to see a map of that region, and maybe you remember that Georgia borders to Armenia. So you enter Armenia, and instantly you get the map - zooming out a bit reveals also the neighboring countries.

It also reveals that Google is censoring. The maps of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan show towns and cities but not the roads connecting them. The roads of Russia, Turkey and Iran are terminating at the respective country borders ...

That kind of (pretty stupid) censorship is certainly not initiated by Google. But Google obviously does not have freedom of press in their DNA - or could someone imagine leading US newspapers bowing to such censorship requests by whoever ? 


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