Google has decided to lift the government-legislated censorship it was conducting in China. This means that Google is now open and the Chinese can search on any term and get the same results you and I get. This is new.
I’ll leave the political implications to other bloggers. Right now, I want to share a recent experience with censored information that has left me reeling.
Last month my British friends on Twitter (some real life friends, some just close online contacts) sent me some links about the true living conditions for Palestinians. I am ashamed to admit it, but I truly had no idea. I know, the information is out there, but I just never saw it. I don’t know why. But just existing in life, here are the messages I get from American media and culture:
*Israelis and Palestinians have never been at peace for thousands of years, and there is nothing we can do about it.
*Palestinians are lavished with supplies, including arms, by other muslim Middle Eastern countries.
*Palestine is the greatest risk to our security in the Middle East.
The list goes on, but you get the gist. The information my friends sent me blew all of these messages to shreds; they just aren’t true. It has brought the meaning of “disrupt” to my very core. It’s uncomfortable. I’ve shed tears over it (here’s a comparison: I shed tears maybe twice about 9/11. One of those times being on 9/11/2001 when I thought a friend was in the Towers).
With Google opening up its search engine, I wonder what kind of disruption is happening with the Chinese people. Are they wise enough to take advantage of this likely short period of time to feverishly look up all the information on Human Rights activists or Democracy? What happens when they find that information that has been withheld from them? Will they feel sad or angry? Will their hearts be heavy with feelings of uselessness as mine is with Palestine? I am just one person. What if millions of people in China learn that their government is not the loving and protective big brother it purports to be?
My friend Eric Rice has a fantastic term for this: Infocalypse: an apocalypse of information. It’s information coming in from all sides, a flash flood of opinion, news, truth and falsehoods. How do we raise children in this? How do we introduce censored/closed cultures to this? How do we find out when we, ourselves, are being censored and what do we do about it?
How do we wean ourselves off it? We are begging for more and more and more information from Haiti. Right now, we would take information from the most biased, evil person on the streets in Haiti. We will absorb their tweets like water on cracked desert soil. We will work to restore their electricity so we can get them internet access, so they can get information themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a fan of censorship, and I’m now so accustomed to surfing the waves of info that I am disrupted when I find that some particular waves have been stopped without my knowledge. I’m a big fan of info. But as a parent and a US citizen, I’m wondering what the effect of an infocalypse will have on a oppressed culture and unsuspecting individuals in the long run.
What say you, my fellow superhighway drivers?