Got To Censor Search Listings? Why Not Disclose?

Earlier coverage of Google omitting some China news sources included Google's explanation that this was done to improve the quality of the service. At first, that sounds like a euphemism, such as calling a computer bug a "feature." But the point is that Google doesn't want to run links to content that those in China cannot actually reach.

John Battelle fleshes this point out more in his Google News And China post. He also suggest something I was thinking of myself. Why not at least show that something was omitted, in the way that Google already disclosures of data omitted in response to US laws.

People might not like that Google (and other search engines) may have to omit material in response to national laws. However, if you operate in a country, you have to follow its laws. But the excellent DMCA notifications implemented by Google show that when censorship is imposed, it's still at least possible to raise awareness of this and play within the rules (for more on how DMCA takedown disclosure works, see my Spam Rules Require Effective Spam Police article).

I'd love to see Google do this in the China situation and indeed in ANY situation where they've removed material. Don't forget. Google (and other search engines) have also removed material because of French and German laws, in addition to US laws and no doubt the laws of other countries as well.

Extending what Google does in the case of DMCA complaints to all situations where content is removed would be a great leap forward (and in fairness, Google is already ahead of competitors when it comes to DMCA complaints).

Google and other search engines also remove material all the time due to spam concerns. That ought be be disclosed, as well. My Spam Rules Require Effective Spam Police has one example where the official WebPosition web site has long been banished from Google's results. That situation still remains true today, as far as I can tell -- and it's disclosed to no one.

Meanwhile, spotted via Andy's blog, the viewpoint of one of the news sources that's omitted: Keep Searching: The Epoch Times Not Welcome on Google.

Postscript: Google's now posted a further explanation: Google Responds to China News Censorship Story