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Empirical Proof of TYoH Theorizing

When I said that the "evil" of Google going into China was directly proportional to the effectiveness of the filters (and thus not that evil at all), I didn't expect to see empirical proof so soon. As Paul Boutin points out, the filters can stop many things, but not poor spelling.

There's even better news for lovers of freedom. Somewhere in the depths of the Chinese Communist bureaucracy, some poor bureaucrat has received the sentence of Sysiphus. Day after day, he (or she) must amend the government's list of blocked terms and websites to encompass every possible misspelling, intentional or no. Maybe he has a crack team of random word generators working for him. Maybe he's on his own, concerned every day that his inevitable failure will lead to his unemployment, or worse.

OK, that's probably an overdramatic way of putting it, but the point stands: if the Chinese government wants to engage in this kind of futile effort, it's resources they can't put into more effective oppression.

(link via Instapundit)

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Hmmm... so you can actually fight oppression by mis-spelling stuff online. I wonder how far you can take this before the benefits of dictator-thwarting start to be outweighed by the degradation of intarweb information to the point of uselessness?
Well, probably pretty far. More to the point, the Chinese government could do something slightly more effective: ban searches based on the same algorithm that Google uses to correct spelling errors already. (Where it says, "Did you mean to type 'whatever'?") But this would be highly overinclusive, and might render Google fairly useless. I don't know how all this works once you are using Chinese search terms, either: that should be a whole new range of difficulties.
The danger lies not in the bulk filtering, but in the options to target bulk filtering at particular individuals. The bureaucrats (and the register lists several thousand, not one assigned to this stuff) who will act on the requests of the Chinese intelligence community, to deny individuals the right to make themselves heard within their native country. Yes I'm sure that 'Tiannamen' will rapidly develop a Pr0n style misspelling, but filtering for the names of those recently arrested (to stop the news spreading) or the names of villages which have recently seen land riots (there is a full fledged peasant rebellion underway in parts of China) would be easy enough. While it's the high profile keywords that have been mentioned in the western press I'm sure that the real efficacy of such measures lies in preventing news spreading. After all, the state controls the TV and radio networks in china, which are already the inspiration for most of what gets typed into a web browser...
Martin: While I take your point, I think you underestimate the ingenuity of Chinese searchers. I somehow doubt that the filters the Chinese government can make will actually serve to block all possible (or even many possible) search terms for a given subject. (On the other hand, the idea of rebellious pr0n spellings in Chinese is pretty humorous.)

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