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Google hijacked?

As you may have read in the news, Google has been censored in China for the last week or so. As of today however, the url is being redirected to homegrown Chinese search engines, university and commercial. Ok, it isn't right etc, and there goes the myth that the internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it ; ), but I think it brings up quite a few interesting issues unique to the web too.

Google has obviously spent a lot of time and money getting that url in people's minds, and a lot of effort on the chinese version/market too. So do they 'own' this brand/rl in other countries too? Certainly they are losing money on those who paid for ads on the chinese version, can they even get insurance for that kind of thing (can you insure a .com name in locations you may not clearly own the right to use it)? Does the WTO membership mean anything in this situation? Obviously these other search engines are going to see some of googles revenues, can google sue them to get that back? If domain-jacking is a crime, is it a crime when it only happens in one area not covered by the law (eg, hijack the cia page when transmitted into russia, etc)?

Mostly I'm curious on your thoughts on owning a domain and what rights that gives you, cross border law with the internet, soverignty, etc etc.

Robin Debreuil
Monday, September 9, 2002

i suspect laws passed by each nation applies to the portion of the internet on its soil. so if hijacking is a crime in the US, it can be applied to someone breaking the law only on US soil not elsewhere.

for example in burma, its illegal to be in possession of a modem. so will US robotics sue the burmese govt for loss of revenue? each govt has every right to do what it pleases. unless they all sign international IP treaties, which is unlikely, u will see these sort of issues constantly popping up.

Monday, September 9, 2002

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (note the "through any media" bit):

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

I'll stay anonymous this time
Monday, September 9, 2002

Even if China is a signatory to the Declaration of Human Rights I doubt they take that much notice of it.

On the other hand, those that use the net in China, which is growing and which is a large part of the reason for a part of the Chinese Govt. to care, have had long experience in avoiding the restrictions imposed on them.

For instance, are the IPs themselves being re-written or only the DNS?

By using the Google API (remove the 1000 requests a day Google), individuals could provide a bridge to those inside the PRC to get to the search engine.

Simon Lucy
Monday, September 9, 2002

Yeah I suspect that is it, but then if is the property of China in China, maybe they can sell it to yahoo too? I guess it is a kind of 'obvious' issue, but it struck me as very strange once they started redirecting. There is something really weird about typing in and getting peking university. It feels like driving to new york and finding out paris is there now. Maybe its just a sign I should go for more walks in the real world : ).


PS. Needless to say the Universal Declaration of Human Rights never made it this far. In fact, that's probably one of the things that google made a bit too easy to find...

Robin Debreuil
Monday, September 9, 2002

Hey Simon,

Yeah, you can use proxy's etc, but everything is monitored too, so you run the risk of having your internet cut off (or something else cut off ; ). It is a pretty encompassing ban this time, IP, url, subdomains, toolbar. Some sites like cnn can still be viewed with, but google seems blank everywhere.

I had downloaded the google api, but I didn't get my key yet, so I haven't tested that. Do you know the url of a site a site using it? It should work I assume, unless they are somehow scanning the page content too.


Robin Debreuil
Monday, September 9, 2002

> Google has obviously spent a lot of time and money getting
> that url in people's minds, and a lot of effort on the chinese
> version/market too.

I think it's no great loss to Google, they mostly advertise by word-of-mouth anyway.  It's China's experiment with not respecting foreign IP, as the US did when starting out. 

Except the US was smart and stole it, instead of censoring it.

But still the US doesn't respect int'l law much even now, including cruel treatment of its prison populace, so who's behind?

Monday, September 9, 2002

Moveable Type includes samples in having the Google API, so people could create search boxes in journals

Simon Lucy
Monday, September 9, 2002

It's interesting to see whether an argument could be made analagous to the compensatory claims one occasionaly sees companies sue for when, eg, a government puts environmental controls in place (Google for NAFTA sceptics; there are plenty of examples of US and Mexican based multinationals sueing the Canadian government).

These are based on the notion that companies have an absolute right to the lowest levels of regulation; if one trading partner imposes de facto or de jure regulations greater than another partner, the company sues for whatever earnings they pluck out of the air as a claimed loss based on the regulations.

It would be interesting to see if the same notion can be extended to censorship actions (not that I like these sorts of treaties much...).

Rodger Donaldson
Monday, September 9, 2002

"But still the US doesn't respect int'l law much even now, including cruel treatment of its prison populace, so who's behind?"


Are you saying Chinese prison rules are more enlightened than the US and if you had your choice you'd chose a Chinese prison?

I have known people who have been in both types of prisons and have to say I'd favor the later.

Have a family friend that survived the great shelving. She's never been to prison but she has some blood-curdling tales to tell.

Ed the Millwright
Monday, September 9, 2002

What, may I ask, do the relative merits of American prisons as compared to those in China or the bloodiness of various periods of Chinese history have to do with whether or not the US respects international law?

If you want to disagree with someone, please disagree with what they actually said.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

I was asking for clarification of wheter 'who's behind' meant to imply a greater respect for human rights in Chinese prisons than US. But the way Sam phrased it I wasn't sure if that's what he meant, hence the request for clarification. If it turns out it is what he meant, I was just going to ask what he bases that belief on as I find it rather surprising. From the eyewitness accounts I have personally heard, the Chinese treatment of prisoners is sadistically brutal.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Uh-oh, I've spawned a Political Discussion! ;-)

I believe the US has the highest prison population in the world today, despite having far fewer people than China and no revolution in recent memory.  And what the US lacks in beatings we might make up for in prison sex.

We still have good politicians going to jail, I've even known one.  And I've met dozens for whom prison is a normal consequence of life, like software bloat is for me.

Mainly I'm just annoyed at a country I really like and should know better.  I'm way off-topic, I guess; and I'm no sociologist.  I wish I knew more about the Chinese mind.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"the US has the highest prison population in the world today"

There was a story on ABC News last night about a recent study that showed violent crime (excluding murders) in the US is now at its lowest point since 1973.  One of the main reasons for this decline is the fact that we're sending the bad guys to prison more often and for longer periods of time.

The rising prison population isn't a problem -- it's the solution.

J. D. Trollinger
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

OK J.D., I'll concede just to get this conversation back on topic.  I play enough politics at work. :-P

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

It's a solution - there is a Dilbert cartoon on this subject

But do you have an explanation why there are less crime in other countries and also less percentage of population in prison ? (ex: many countries in Europe: Netherlands, England, Germany, Sweden, France, ... - I don't know much about the rest of the world).

Just curious.

Robert Chevallier
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Hey Sammy,

Actually I fully agree with you both that there is an abnormal share of the populace in prison, and also that US prisons have an abysmal human rights record that seriously needs to be cleaned up if the US wants to be a modern western nation.

JD, I understand your point of view but will say that correlation is not causation. Prisons in the US seem to be a breeding ground for new crime skills. One factor involved is that many prison guards are dangerous and crazy -- staging gladiator fights between prisoners, selling drugs to prisoners, acting as go-between in crime syndicates, and raping the prisoners. (After all the female prisoners with no conjugal visits who get pregnant do so somehow -- they all can't be the virgin mary.) This sort of stuff might be expected in some sort of despotic 3rd world dictatorship out of control but have no place in a so-called free country.

Anyway, I think we're all in general agreement here and can move on.

Ed the Millwright
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Yeahaay! Google's back!!! You don't know who your friends are until they are gone : ).

Robin Debreuil
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

..and cached pages are gone, har! I wonder if that is the firewall, or gogle cut a deal : ).

Robin Debreuil
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

How disappointing. Which of the following apply:

- You can't afford to have morals when you're running a big business.
- Google isn't stupid enough to go against the Chinese Government.
- Google have good business sense.
- No one ever said Google was about Free Speech or "access to information for all" anyway.
- All of the above.

Anonymous again
Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Morals are certainly possible, Google has some interesting standards when it comes to the ads they accept, that I'm sure give them fits because of the criteria's fuzziness.

I'm sure that Google was sensitive to the Chinese situation, and there's clear evidence there's sane people in the gov't that have to compromise with less sane people.  I'm sure their negotiations have been pretty interesting...

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Well, the real point here is that Internet access can be censored. The real point here is that the old staying that you can't control the net is really false. You certainly can control the net, and it really comes down to the will of the government.

The net is not un-regulable as most have been lead to believe. This china example will turn a few heads in governments around the world..since it shows that control of the net is indeed very possible.

There are rules at what can be shown on TV right now. Normally, what keeps the Television networks in line is these laws. If the TV provider beaks these laws, their license can be removed. This whole same process can be applied to the net.

This whole issue of Spam is a perfect example. You break spamming laws, and the government simply cuts off that provider until they rain in that ISP’s abuser.

It going to come that.....

I am in no way saying the above is good, or just simply the way it is....

A government certainly can regulate the net. It is a myth that is rapidly diminishing, and this China example demonstrates this.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, September 14, 2002

> A government certainly can regulate the net.

The net used to be a bunch of servers interconnected by dial-up modems - about as easy to regulate as it is to regulate telephone conversations.

> for example in burma, its illegal to be in possession of a modem.

Well, there is that.

Christopher Wells
Friday, September 27, 2002

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