Free Web Search and Objective Results

February 8, 2019

I spotted a story from the Moscow Times called “Google Began Censoring Search Results in Russia, Reports Say.” I read:

Google began complying with Russian requirements and has deleted around 70 percent of the websites blacklisted by authorities, an unnamed Google employee told Russia’s Vedomosti business daily Wednesday. An unnamed Roskomnadzor source reportedly confirmed the information to the paper. On Thursday, a Roskomnadzor spokesman told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that the regulator had established a “constructive dialogue” with Google over filtering content.

Let’s assume the report is accurate.

Is this the model for filtering content in online indexes which Google developed to comply with different countries’ laws and regulations?

If the Russian regulatory authority is “fully satisfied”, the Google system appears to be working.

Several questions crossed my mind; to wit:

  1. Has Google used this system to filter content in other countries; for example, the US, Brazil, or Iran?
  2. Does the system work with acceptable reliability? Some potentially objectionable can be located via a Google image query to cite one example?
  3. What is the economic payoff of Google find a solution to its pre-filtering disputes with Russia?

Interesting, particularly when one asks the question, “Am I getting accurate information when running a query on Google, regardless of the country in which the query appears to have been launched?”

If search results are shaped, what does one do to locate potentially useful information? One answer, I suppose, is to pay for commercial online access. Another may be to assume that what’s online IS the correct data set? One could ask those in one’s social network, but that too may be filtered.

But free services are free. Free services may have other characteristics as well. What does “free” mean? Hmmm.

Stephen E Arnold, February 8, 2019


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