Tag Archives: search

Seek And Ye Shall Not Find

Xinhua English Service, Most Searched Terms, 22 Mar 2012

This Bystander was amused to see the most searched-for terms on Xinhua’s English-language service today (screen-grab above). Clicking on the names of the three individuals listed yields no information more recent than a week old. We can only assume that nothing of interest has happened to them since.

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Google, Hacked, Takes A Rare Public Stand

Google, market cap $143 billion, vs China, nominal GDP of $4.6 trillion (2008) at current exchange rates. Not exactly an even match up. Yet David is taking on Goliath, not that Google is used to playing the David role.

The American search media company says it might pull out of China after it discovered that in December the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists had been breached, albeit at a low level. In a blog post, Google’s top lawyer, David Drummond said that “we have discovered that at least 20 other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted.”  In a separate post Google, which runs a distant second in the 7 billion yuan ($1 billion) China search market to Baidu’s 60%, added that it was “no longer willing to continue censoring our results” on its Chinese search engine, as the government requires, a practice it had engaged in since 2006 to obtain its Chinese license despite its “Do No Evil” self-image.

Google is not alone among foreign companies in bowing to Beijing’s wishes over matters the government considers sensitive (although it has stopped short of directly accusing the government of being behind the Gmail attack). And it will likely meet with government officials in the near future to discuss whether it will be allowed to offer an uncensored Chinese search engine. It is also embroiled in a copyright dispute over including Chinese authors in its Google Books project. But it may be better positioned than most to take a high-profile stand that will benefit it more in the places where it makes its money, and it may also be gambling on Beijing not wanting to be seen to be drumming one of the world’s best-known multinationals out of the country.

Update: a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday that “China welcomes international Internet companies to conduct business within the country according to law” and that the “government administers the Internet according to law and we have explicit stipulations over what content can be spread on the Internet”.


Filed under China-U.S., Media, Politics & Society

Google Expands Music Search Service That Labels Hope Will Kill Piracy

Google has run a music search engine in China since last August. It is the only country where it has such a service (or at least for now). It does so in direct competition with Baidu, which has 60% of the search market in China and gets a substantial portion of its traffic from searches for MP3s.

Many of the MP3s Baidu links to are illegal, which is where Google sees its opportunity, in legal, higher quality downloads. Initially it had some 350,000 songs but now, Reuters reports, it has signed licensing deals with the four major Western record labels, EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and Universal Music, that will expand the catalogue to 1.1 million songs. The labels will share ad revenue around the free downloads with Google and Top100.cn, a music website co-founded by basketball star Yao Ming.

Because of piracy, Western record labels have made as near to no money in China as makes no difference. Annual sales are a derisory $76 million, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the industry’s trade organization. The Google deal is the first serious attempt to change that. “I can’t overestimate how important this is,” Lachie Rutherford, president of Warner Music Asia Pacific, tells Reuters. We’ll see.

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Software For Supercensors

The crack down on Internet sites — including this time search engines Baidu and Google — in the name of stamping out pornography has some new software at is service. But these new tools are intended to help authorities “to spot risks of subversion much earlier and root it out more efficiently,” according to an FT report quoting Beijing TRS Information Technology, China’s leading provider of search technology and text mining solutions.

He Zhaohui, marketing manager at TRS, told the FT that his company is now increasingly selling text-mining software that lets censors monitor and forecast public opinion rather than take down dangerous talk after it happened.  Speaking more frankly than is probably prudent for someone selling surveillance software (one market niche he identified was for government departments that wanted to spy on others), He touted the software as making censors much more efficient, productive and analytical in their surveillance.

He claimed that such technology could have prevented the Shanxi brick kiln slavery scandal causing the damage it did to the country’s image. It was internet postings by parents searching for their kidnapped children that first led to the discovery that hundreds of children had been sold into slavery at illegal brick kilns. The software could have picked up on that early.

No doubt it could have been applied to the postings on the kidneystonebabies web site set up by the parents of children afflicted by the melamine-tainted infant formula scandal. The site has become a focal point for parents unhappy with the compensation they are being offered. Its founders were briefly detained late last week.

Software, of course, has no moral compass of its own. Dissidence among desperate parents is much the same to it as dissidence among students, democratic-minded intellectuals and human rights activists.

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