Google censoring searches in China again

02/08/2018
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Google has a new logo and updating its image – but under the surface it’s still that pre-2010 half-evil censor

Eight years after Google pulled out of the censored Chinese internet, they’re back.  It’s been reported that the company is working on a mobile search app that would block certain search terms and allow it to reenter the Chinese market.

Google has engaged in the China-controlled internet space before: but in 2010 it pulled out, citing censorship and hacking as reasons.  It didn’t pull out completely – it still offered a number of apps to Chinese users, including Google Translate and Files Go, and the company has offices in Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai – But the largest of its services – search, email, and the Play app store – are all unavailable in the country.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the Guardian in 2010 that his opposition to enabling censorship was motivated to his being born in Soviet Russia.   “It touches me more than other people having been born in a country that was totalitarian and having seen that for the first few years of my life,” he said as Google exited the Chinese market after 4 years of cooperating with the authorities.

But now they’re back, working on a mobile search app that would block certain search terms and black-listed material.  The app is being designed for Android devices.

According to tech-based news site The Information, Google is also working on a censored news-aggregation app too. The news app would take its lead from popular algorithmically-curated apps such as Bytedance’s Toutiao – released for the Western market as “TopBuzz” – that eschew human editors in favour of personalised, highly viral content.

Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International, called Google’s return to censorship “a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom.”

In putting profits before human rights, he said, Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory.

This is important because many computer users will set a search site as their homepage and even find content by entering key-words into the url bar of their browser.  Because of Google’s ubiquity, it is frequently set as default search engine on browsers, meaning that millions of users will find that their experience of the internet is that delivered through the lens of Google.  If that lens is smudged or cracked by censorship, all these users’ internet experience is skewed.  So it is essential to highlight the fact that Google is not the neutral, trustworthy agent that many users think it to be.

GreatFire, an organisation that monitors internet censorship and enables circumvention of the “Great Firewall of China”, said the move “could be the final nail in the Chinese internet freedom coffin” and that “the ensuing crackdown on freedom of speech will be felt around the globe.”

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Snowden Q & A

28/06/2013

Sorry, I didn’t spot this when it first came online. Other stuff going on… Anyway, here it is now: Guardian readers asking the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden all about PRISM, the other secret documents he leaked, and of course why did he blow the whistle? The USA and its buddies are now claiming he gave juicy secrets to China and Russia, why else would he have been allowed to travel to Hong Kong and Moscow? Just shit-throwing, but when they throw enough shit at you some will stick and you’ll smell pretty bad. Snowden will likely be considered a hero in the future. But the heroes of history are often reviled in their own time. I just hope the USA doesn’t get hold of him; if they do, he’s a dead man. Killed for telling us that our own governments spy on us just cos they can.

We gotta stop acting like the dumb jackasses our governments treat us like. In the words of RATM we gotta take the power back! Cos it’s our power, not theirs; they have it right now cos we lent it to them. Some of us thought they could be trusted; some of us have acted like idiots. But that doesn’t mean we are idiots, and we should be real pissed off what’s been going on. FFS, what more will it take before we see this set-up as the house of cards it really is and kick the foundations out from under it?

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Countless Americans claim asylum in Britain from US government persecution

25/01/2010

Monday 25 January 2010

Okay, so maybe I was exaggerating when I said “countless” Americans are claiming political asylum in the UK. Actually, between 2004 and 2008, 45 US citizens claimed asylum in Britain, claiming they were being persecuted by their government.

The UK Home Office released this info after a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian newspaper. Between 2004 and 2008 there were 132,640 asylum claims made in the UK, according to government statistics. 45 were made by Americans, and 15 came from Canadian citizens. The Home Office refused to reveal the reasons for asylum requests, but a source within the US government suggested that the US requests were made by self-declared “political refugees” claiming persecution by the Bush administration. Applications from the US peaked in 2008, the final year of George Bush’s presidency, when 15 Americans submitted asylum claims. All 60 North American claims were refused – again, the Home Office refused to divulge why they were refused, claiming that a manual search of records to collect the information would take too long.

Maybe you think 45 claims over 4 years isn’t a huge number. But remember: these are just the claims for asylum made in the UK. How many other US citizens have sought refuge in other countries? It would be extremely difficult to collate world-wide information. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that if the UK, America’s biggest ally, received 45 claims for asylum from Americans, other countries probably received many more.

Liza Schuster, an asylum expert from the department of sociology at City University in London, quoted in the Guardian article, suggested another reason to believe these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. She said:

“I don’t know the details of those cases, but assume the US citizens are deserting before being sent to somewhere like Afghanistan. With the Canadians I’m really not sure. It is, as is clear from the numbers, pretty unusual – if only because it is relatively easy for those people to leave their countries and settle elsewhere. Why not just apply for a work visa and renew and then apply for leave to remain?

“As someone who would not find admission to European countries too difficult, it would only make sense to claim asylum if you feared extradition back to Canada or the US, or if there was some reason you might be refused entry. It is interesting – I’d be curious to know more – not least because in spite of what the law books say, granting asylum is a criticism of the originating state.”

On various online forums, people claiming to be American refugees have outlined their cases. One Texan hoping to be allowed sanctuary in Scotland claimed he had been “persecuted as a political dissident against US government war-mongering”.

This really does raise some important questions. For one, there’s the question of how many Americans in total have felt the need to seek political asylum abroad. And why have they sought asylum? Why are citizens of “the land of the free” running away from a country whose constitution allegedly grants them “undeniable rights”? Is American democracy actually no better than the brand of “democracy” on offer in Russia, China, Saudi Arabia?

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US Federal Judge bans free speech

27/02/2008

According to Wikipedia, Wikileaks is a website which allows whistleblowers to release government and corporate documents, anonymously and without possible retribution. But a US federal district court judge has tried to close it down.

Wikileaks revealed details of criminal activity at the Cayman Island branch of the Julius Baer bank. Officials of the bank went crying to a California district court, and Judge Jeffrey White ordered Dynadot, registrar of the domain name wikileaks.org, to take that site name offline – permanently.

The New York Times says that the judge’s actions are unconstitutional: taking away the domain name “was akin to shutting down a newspaper because of objections to one article. The First Amendment requires the government to act only in the most dire circumstances when it regulates free expression.”

Judge White has acted like he’s an employee of Julius Baer… but what’s really funny is that the tizzy-fit in the US courts has been pretty much a waste of time. So the wikileak.org domain name has gone – but there’s still wikileaks.be, mirrored documents at cryptome.org, and Wikileaks is also available at the IP address http://88.80.13.160. To shut down these access methods, Julius Baer would have to pursue injunctions in all the jurisdictions where they’re registered or where the servers reside – and these are deliberately scattered around to make such action very difficult!

But, even though Julius Baer and their pet judge have been ineffectual, it’s still damn out of order for them to try and silence free speech on the net. Wikileaks serves an important function – its original purpose was, in part, to allow Chinese dissidents to speak out without having to watch their backs – and the American courts have revealed that they don’t give a toss about freedom of expression even though that freedom is meant to be constitutionally enshrined there.

In most countries, laws relating to free speech and a free press still don’t apply online, even though the internet has been in existence for years. So Judge White can try to hide behind the argument that a website is not a newspaper. But we all know that’s a bunch of bullshit. There’s an expression in England: “The law is an ass.” And it applies just as well to the judge.


Burmese demonstrations continue… as does the murder of dissidents

28/09/2007

Just a quick post, while I have a spare minute – I’ll post more later on, when I’m home from work – but I thought I’d point anyone who’s interested in the direction of the Democratic Voice of Burma; a site that tells true news about what what’s going on in Burma/Myanmar. The site is based in Norway, so the Burmese government censors have no way of closing it down… as they have done to the media in Burma.

Oh yeah: the link above takes you to the English language version of the site – but from there you can get to other languages too.

See ya soon!

—–

UPDATE

The Burmese security forces seem to be winning their battle against dissent. They have arrested hundreds of monks – and many of them will probably be murdered by the army. Monasteries have been sealed. And hardly any news is getting out of Burma – nearly all internet links have been severed; and all privately-owned newspapers and magazines have ceased publication rather than carry the propaganda that the authorities ordered them to print, the Democratic Voice of Burma has reported:

“They are forcing us to publish their announcements and propaganda in our publications and we can’t let them do that to us,” said a Rangoon journalist.

The journalist compared the current situation with that during the 1988 uprising.

“In 1988 journals published news about the riots and shootings, but it is not as easy to do that now. The situation has changed – soldiers are shooting at everything now – so we can’t do it,” said the journalist. [from the DVB]

Now that the generals have taken the monks out of the picture, the demonstrators are losing spirit. The monks were a moral beacon, an example, and a form of leadership. But the Burmese civilian population have been ruled over tyrannically for decades – they are subservient by nature, disobedience has been beaten out of them – whereas the crowds numbered tens of thousands before, now just small crowds are gathering – and being savagely attacked by the army.

Horrific images have been shown all round the world. Japanese photographer Kenji Nagai, who worked for AFP, was shot dead by Burmese security forces – and, according to the Guardian, it looks like the army deliberately targetted Mr Nagai.

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AFP photographer Kenji Nagai, murdered in the street by Burmese soldiers.

It looks like the Burmese dictators’ tactics have worked – without the Buddhist monks, the demonstrations are petering out, and soon things may well be back to “normal” – whatever the fuck passes for normal in that fucked up country. The state media have reported 10 deaths – obvious bullshit. Gordon Brown has said he believes the casualty rates are much higher (according to BBC Radio 4 news), and he’s been talking to President Bush about the situation – but the Burmese generals don’t care. They have always ignored international opinion. The only other government they have “friendly” relationships with is the Chinese – and it looks like the army has been careful not to alienate China.

A group of 5,000-10,000 protestors assembled at around 3.30pm in the Chinatown area at the junction of Strand road and Keile road, also cursing government security forces. No government troops, guards or supporters were seen at this location.

“It’s like they’re trying not to upset the Chinese. We’ve seen an army truck passing by Chinatown, but no troops have been deployed.” [as reported by DVB]

So, what are the USA and UK going to do about this? The “free world” always make a big noise about the sanctity of democracy – liberating the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein is constantly used as an excuse for the invasion of Iraq. Well, the Burmese generals are worse dictators than Saddam ever worse – so will we invade?

Ha ha ha ha ha!!!

There’s no oil in Burma.  Just poverty and injustice.  Our political leaders may huff and puff, but at the end of the day they’ll do fuck all.  The military dictators of “Myanmar” have nothing to worry about.

Incidentally, what is this “Myanmar” crap all about?  The whole world seems to call Burma Burma.  Maybe by using the other name, the generals think that no one will realise what a shithole the place is.

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Buddhist monks in Burma – they led the demonstrations, now they’re probably dead.


Coming soon – nuclear war with Iran! (maybe)

17/09/2007

The world has gone fucking mad!!!   The French (you gotta love ’em) has threatened war with Iran!!!

As  BBC News  reported:

Mr Kouchner has sounded the alarm over Iran’s nuclear programme
French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner says the world should prepare for war over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war,” Mr Kouchner said in an interview on French TV and radio.

Mr Kouchner said negotiations with Iran should continue “right to the end”, but an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose “a real danger for the whole world”.

Iran has consistently denied it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons but intends to carry on enriching uranium.

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Bernard Kouchner telling Iran: “This means war!”

Okay, so the French aren’t actually saying “Let’s fry ’em now!”, but remember this – France are the one Western permanent member of the UN Security Council that is ever moderate over Iran.  The USA (and their UK poodles) are usually the ones being all aggressive, and the French usually need to calm them down.  Now France is getting all feisty…. what more encouragement could a fruitcake like George Bush need???

And remember this – the other two permanent members, Russia and China, are far more relaxed about Iran’s nuclear programme – Russia’s actually helping Iran to build one nuclear power station.  Whose side will they be on if Bush goes off on one?????


Japan shoots for the Moon!

15/09/2007

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Yesterday morning, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched an unmanned flight which brings Japan’s goal of a manned moon-base by 2025 that much closer.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/space/article/0,,2169428,00.html

The space craft, nicknamed “Kaguya” after the moon princess in a Japanese fairy tale, will release 2 smaller satellites when in the moon’s orbit. These 3 satellites will then survey previously unmapped areas of the Lunar surface and conduct other experiment. This is all part of a plan to build a manned moonbase by 2025.

There seems to be a rush of interest in the moon. India and China have plans for moonshots, and the USA intends to launch a lunar orbiter next year.

It’s a pity that the US Government decided to abandon moon missions after the Apollo programme and focus on the space shuttle instead. Sure, we gained many wonderful technologies thanks to the shuttle and satellites – GPS and satellite TV to name just two – but they would probably have been developed anyway if NASA had pressed on with plans for moon bases and missions to Mars.

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Developing bases on the moon would be very handy in planning missions to Mars and the outer planets. The moon would be an excellent place to site a space ship factory – they could take off much more easily from there than from the earth, as the moon’s gravitational pull is only about a sixth of that here. Of course, such a factory would only be possible if there were some easy way to get raw materials to the moon. But who knows what resources are waiting to be discovered up there? Already there have been reports of water ice in some craters. Beneath the lunar surfaces there could be metal ores and other elements needed for space flight.

Many people think that space exploration is a waste of time and money. They say we should sort out the problems here on earth before reaching for the stars. But I disagree. For one thing, “necessity is the mother of invention” – great technological advances have been made because of war, for example. I think that space exploration is a much better spur to development than world war.

And exploring other worlds will help us to understand more about our own. For example, Venus’s atmosphere contains a high proportion of carbon dioxide – and the greenhouse effect is strikingly evident there.

All in all, I think the launch of Kaguya is A Good Thing. I really do hope that the Japanese manage to get their moonbase built by 2025… and I’d love to go there when it’s done!


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