Freedom of the Press: Baidu vs Google

Freedom of the press is a privilege that most of us take for granted—we assume its rooted existence without question, thanks to the blessings of our First Amendment. But what about nations who lack a liberal constitution, nations whose political systems are far from Western democracy?

China is one example. On the Internet alone, nearly all potentially subversive material is banned, as are many of the platforms upon which it can be published. The social networking/blogging sites Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are prohibited as part of what is referred to as The Great Firewall of China. The Firewall also blocks many parts of other sites that might contain information on topics like anti-communism, the history of China, or—most strikingly—the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989.

For example, in mainland China, if I google “tiananmen square protest,” the search results page will fail to load. Even just “tiananmen square” will activate the firewall and trigger an Internet failure. If I switch to Bing, I get the same results. This is where China’s main search engine, Baidu, comes into play. On it you can type in “tiananmen square protest,” but the results are next to irrelevant: they’re related to Tiananmen Square, but either are totally unrelated to the 1989 protests, write them off, or condemn them.

An image search shows the disparity more clearly (click to enlarge):

Tiananmen Square Protest Search

Note that I am actually using Google UK on the right-hand side as the proxy server I am using routes there. The difference between the results from Baidu and Google is astounding—you’d think they were searching two completely different events.

More interestingly, according to the Chinese Internet, the Tank Man never existed. The man who stopped a column of tanks by standing in front of them. This guy:

Tank Man

He’s nowhere to be found in China. It’s as if he were a Western myth. For amusement, I have attached here the image comparison from above, with the word “tank” added to the end of the query:

Tiananmen Square Tank

So neither the tank man nor the tanks existed—if you know what I mean.

Happy Fourth of July!

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