Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Let's Play Global Information Keep-Away

Google is now the king of search engines. It has the god-like ability of being able to know what people are looking for on the Web, and also provide people with what they are looking for. For totalitarian China, this is a problem, because it wants to control what people look for and prevent them from seeing certain things. For the quasi-democratic United States, it wants to monitor the communication of whom they have deemed criminals and/or terrorists, in the hope that this will lead to their eventual capture. It also wants to justify its desire to ban Internet porn, by gathering Internet porn search word statistics.

Google has refused to give the United States government access to data involving Internet porn search words. But it has decided to censor data (with a warning saying "This has been censored") for the Chinese government. While it is fortunate that Google's mantra is "Do no Evil", eventually self-interest tends to corrupt good intentions like that. I suspect there was no financial benefit for Google to handing over the incredible volume of data to the United States government (It's also likely that there's no reasonable way the government would be able to mine it inexpensively -- it's enormous!)

For China though, losing all access to the Chinese is billions of missing eyeballs for advertisers.

I find this very interesting because lately I've been chatting with a number of Chinese ICQ members. Many are not able to read blogs that are hosted on Blogger, but can read mine because I host it myself. Does that mean my website could get banned by the Chinese government? Why should I be under the realm of Chinese Law?

These are weird times for governments, corporations, and individual people. The Internet is acting like a supercollider of governmental & corporate & cultural rules, many of which will be in total conflict. I don't see how China will be able to continue controlling its people. Likewise, unless we change our administration and corporate law, America will be more like China as it justifies China-like behavior in the name of anti-terrorism and protecting children from pornography. Content industries are chiming in too, convincing Canada, the EU, Australia, and the United States to crack down on individuals sharing content with each other.

And just when it was getting crazy enough, the owners of the pipes beneath the Internet want more financial action. They want to set up tiers of payment, where people who pay more get the fast lanes and people who pay less get slower than they are now.

An information earthquake!

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posted by Brian at 12:38 AM

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