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posted by Dopefish on Monday February 17 2014, @12:00PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the trust-but-verify dept.

AudioGuy writes "A Guardian reporter, Rebecca MacKinnon, has some interesting insights on how Chinese censorship may be inadvertently leaking into Micosoft's Bing Search engine.

"After conducting my own research, running my own tests, and drawing upon nearly a decade of experience studying Chinese Internet censorship, I have concluded that what several activists and journalists have described as censorship on Bing is actually what one might call "second hand censorship". Basically, Microsoft failed to consider the consequences of blindly applying apolitical mathematical algorithms to politically manipulated and censored web content. The algorithm deployed by Bing may be mathematically sound, but it fails to protect online freedom of expression. Bing failed to take into account the political reality of Chinese government censorship and its broader impact on the shape of the Chinese Internet. Without adjustments to how simplified Chinese websites based outside of mainland China are "weighted," exiled and dissident online voices inevitably lose out. Put it another way: an apolitical mathematical formula automatically amplifies Chinese government censorship to all people searching for simplified Chinese content anywhere in the world, not just in China."

Apparently Google had the same problem, but has managed to write code to prevent these side effects."

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End of Day 1: Systems Update 149 comments

So, as I write this, day one has officially come to an end. I'm still somewhat in shock over it. Last night when I was editing the database to change over hostnames and such, I was thinking, man, it would be great if we got 100 regular users by tomorrow. Turns out I was wrong. By a factor of ten. Holy cow, people. I'm still in a state of disbelief, partially due to the epic turnout, but also because our very modest server hardware hasn't soiled itself from the influx (the numbers are, well, "impressive" is a way to put it). Anyway, I wanted to do a bit of a writeup of where we stand now, what works, and what doesn't. Check it out (and some raw numbers) after the break! Warning, it is a bit lengthy.

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  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17 2014, @12:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17 2014, @12:04PM (#594)

    HELLO WORLD! Aw jeeez cmooooon!

  • (Score: 1) by Vanderhoth on Monday February 17 2014, @12:05PM

    by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:05PM (#595)

    I really am very surprised Bing's still around and wish they were doing better. I like Google, but the competition is important to keep both parties "honest".

    Anyone use another search engine?

    I've been thinking I should try something besides Google and introduce a bit of variety into my web crawling.

    Can anyone comment on how Duck Duck Go is?

    --
    "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
    • (Score: 1) by weilawei on Monday February 17 2014, @12:07PM

      by weilawei (109) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:07PM (#598)
      It's fine for casual use, but absolutely abominable for technical subjects, and often fails to return the Wiki page when most direly needed.
      • (Score: 1) by Vanderhoth on Monday February 17 2014, @12:11PM

        by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:11PM (#603)

        That's a shame. I liked the privacy stance they took and used it for awhile, DuckDuckGo that is, but I found I just wasn't getting relevant results back.

        --
        "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
        • (Score: 1) by githaron on Monday February 17 2014, @03:49PM

          by githaron (581) on Monday February 17 2014, @03:49PM (#785)

          My biggest problem will all non-Google search engines I have tried is that they don't have decent time-based filtering. A lot of times when I search, I only care about the last X time units of results. Google has actually gotten worse in this regard. They used to have more granular options for time in their interface. Now days, I tend to manually modify the tbs GET parameter. Example: "tbs=qdr:m6" (Last 6 months).

        • (Score: 1) by Istaera on Monday February 17 2014, @09:48PM

          by Istaera (113) on Monday February 17 2014, @09:48PM (#1105)

          I've also been using DDG exclusively for the past couple of months with no problems, but you can always use !g to use Google's encrypted search from DDG (I've not yet needed to). What I do use is !gi for Google encrypted image search.

          Another reason to switch to DDG is to break out of your "internet bubble" and receive sites in your search with dissenting views to your own. Google etc. frames this as a bad thing; it's more convenient to show you results that relate to links you follow.

          --
          I believe there's somebody out there watching us. Unfortunately, it's the government.
      • (Score: 1) by d on Monday February 17 2014, @01:11PM

        by d (523) on Monday February 17 2014, @01:11PM (#656)

        I disagree. It usually points me straight to stackoverflow and if you want wiki, it's as easy as prepending your search query with !w (the "bang" mode, incredibly useful, especially when you're running queries straight out of the URL bar).

    • (Score: 1) by ticho on Monday February 17 2014, @12:10PM

      by ticho (89) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:10PM (#602) Homepage Journal

      I have been using DDG almost exclusively for over a year, and it works well enough for my needs. My only complaint is that they tend to modify my queries by ignoring certain characters (e.g. search for "foo_bar" becomes a search for "foo bar"). But from what I've seen, Google does the same thing, so maybe I'm just not aware of some "verbatim" keyword which would stop them both from doing this.

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by pbnjoe on Monday February 17 2014, @12:15PM

        by pbnjoe (313) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:15PM (#607) Journal

        You've used the "keyword" three times in that post :) wrapping what you want to search verbatim in quotation marks should search for that exactly.

      • (Score: 1) by Vanderhoth on Monday February 17 2014, @12:21PM

        by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:21PM (#614)

        I took a web development course back in university, one of the things we learned about was lexical parsers for search results. It's a common technique to strip off characters that give temporal or plural meaning to a word so they can be more easily compared. E.G. compare, compared, comparing, compares, comparison, comparisons all use the same root word, but lexicaly you have to do multiple comparisons. So just using the root word makes more sense, so it could be a similar situation.

        --
        "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
    • (Score: 1) by xlefay on Monday February 17 2014, @12:12PM

      by xlefay (65) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:12PM (#606) Journal

      I've found it to return decent results, it's not always "great" though; but for the occasional search I bother the google-machine!

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by SGT CAPSLOCK on Monday February 17 2014, @12:15PM

      by SGT CAPSLOCK (118) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:15PM (#608) Journal

      I've used DDG for quite a while now, and it's pretty much always given me relevant results. The integration with Wolfram Alpha is a huge benefit, too. And when in doubt, I can always start a query with !g to check the results from the database of one of the world's most evil intelligence agencies!

      • (Score: 1) by isostatic on Monday February 17 2014, @01:34PM

        by isostatic (365) on Monday February 17 2014, @01:34PM (#669) Journal

        I've been using duckduckgo for a while. Sadly I find myself moving to google more and more. Partly this is due to the U.S. centric view of duckduckgo, but also fairly often the pages I want just don't come up.

        • (Score: 1) by githaron on Monday February 17 2014, @03:52PM

          by githaron (581) on Monday February 17 2014, @03:52PM (#787)

          Guess they don't have regional versions of their site yet?

    • (Score: 1) by tastech on Monday February 17 2014, @12:27PM

      by tastech (251) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:27PM (#619)

      I use duckduckgo on all my machines, have done for a year or so. Less 'sponsored Links' more relevant results.

    • (Score: 1) by dilbert on Monday February 17 2014, @12:43PM

      by dilbert (444) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:43PM (#628)

      Startpage.com allows you to query google indirectly. You're still getting google results while not letting them see your IPaddress, or tie the query to your browsing history.

      Ixquick.com (run by the same people as startpage) is another duckduckgo type search engine that aggregates results from multiple sites. I prefer to use startpage as much as possible and only use other engines on those rare occasions when startpage is temporarily blocking my TOR session.

    • (Score: 1) by SMI on Monday February 17 2014, @12:45PM

      by SMI (333) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:45PM (#632)

      I like Startpage myself. You can even customize it to your preferences and then have it give you a custom url which preserves those preferences, negating the need for cookies and the like.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17 2014, @12:58PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17 2014, @12:58PM (#642)

      But do you want Google's competition to be coming from Microsoft? I don't.

      • (Score: 1) by Vanderhoth on Monday February 17 2014, @01:11PM

        by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday February 17 2014, @01:11PM (#657)

        Competition is good regardless of who it's coming form. I'd prefer someone else, but no one ATM has the financial backing or massive corporate resources to take on Google in the search department.

        --
        "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
        • (Score: 1) by umafuckitt on Monday February 17 2014, @01:49PM

          by umafuckitt (20) on Monday February 17 2014, @01:49PM (#689)

          And Microsoft have failed despite their corporate resources. Search is a tricky area because it's something users take for granted. A newcomer might return excellent search results but this still won't be enough to get people to switch from Google. Something more is needed, and it's unclear what this is. Back when Google made it big, they did two things: 1. Give people an uncluttered page and a memorable name. 2. Return high quality results in an easy to digest package. The other companies weren't doing that. Their pages were messy and visually unappealing. Those tricks won't work any more: they've been done already.

          • (Score: 1) by Vanderhoth on Monday February 17 2014, @01:56PM

            by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday February 17 2014, @01:56PM (#695)

            Can't argue with that.

            I still remember when AltaVista was the only search engine on the block and how ugly their site was. I still have PTSD nightmares from using it.

            --
            "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
            • (Score: 1) by umafuckitt on Monday February 17 2014, @02:07PM

              by umafuckitt (20) on Monday February 17 2014, @02:07PM (#700)

              Argh! AltaVista! I remember doing the rounds between search engines because no one site was good enough. Now pretty much any of them are good enough.

          • (Score: 1) by dmc on Tuesday February 18 2014, @05:49AM

            by dmc (188) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @05:49AM (#1431)

            "
            Back when Google made it big, they did two things:
            "

            They also had access to a third thing- vast free bandwidth and a willingness to scrape the internet for fair use purposes-

            http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3106555&cid=41 288357 [slashdot.org]
            "

            Re:EVIL: No Server Hosting Allowed (Score:5, Interesting)
            by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @10:46AM (#41288357)

            Posting anonymously for reasons that will be obvious.

            Larry Page is really annoyed by the "no servers" clause. In an internal weekly all-hands meeting he repeatedly needled Patrick Pichette about the limitation, and pointedly reminded him that the only reason Google was able to get off the ground was because Page and Brin could use Stanford's high-speed Internet connection for free. Page wants to see great garage startups being enabled by cheap access to truly high-speed Internet. Pichette defended it saying they had no intention of trying to enforce it in general, but that it had to be there in case of serious abuse, like someone setting up a large-scale data center.

            I don't think anyone really has to worry about running servers on their residential Google Fiber, as long as they're not doing anything crazy. Then again it's always possible that Page will change his mind or that the lawyers will take over the company, and the ToS is what it is. If I had Google Fiber I'd run my home server just as I do on my Comcast connection, but I'd also be prepared to look for other options if my provider complained.
            "

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Dogeball on Monday February 17 2014, @06:37PM

      by Dogeball (814) on Monday February 17 2014, @06:37PM (#929)

      DuckDuckGo is currently my default search engine in firefox.

      It's doing fine as of this afternoon, with a handy context-sensitive box which it appears if it thinks you may be looking for a video, definition or wikipedia entry. Ads are clearly marked and unobtrusive.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Nerdfest on Monday February 17 2014, @12:05PM

    by Nerdfest (80) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:05PM (#596)

    Didn't Google just leave China? Perhaps Microsoft should do the same. Making tweaks so that their censorship doesn't affect people outside of China is not really the right solution. At what point does it become like IBM's business during the second world war (Godwined in one?). I realize that there's money to be made, but perhaps a statement clarifying that you can't be bought would be better, especially after the nasty NSA business.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Vanderhoth on Monday February 17 2014, @12:08PM

      by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:08PM (#601)

      I don't think Bing can afford to do that. China's a huge market and frankly Bing has next to no market share in North America and Europe. If they left China, IMHO, that would be it for them.

      --
      "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
      • (Score: 1) by Nerdfest on Monday February 17 2014, @12:35PM

        by Nerdfest (80) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:35PM (#625)

        If Google or Yahoo decided to pull a "scroogled" on them and pointed out that they are supporting a fascist state, it could be bad for them as well. Of course, the way things are going in the west, perhaps I'm being a little optimistic in thinking that anyone would actually care.

        • (Score: 1) by Vanderhoth on Monday February 17 2014, @01:09PM

          by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday February 17 2014, @01:09PM (#654)

          China has a pretty hefty chunk of the worlds population, almost five times the population of the US. Given most of the country is third world poor. It would still be a really bad business move to forsake them for North America and Europe. As you said with the way things are going, China's the next star.

          Here's a pie chart [wikipedia.org], I like pie.

          It'd be like a company telling the US to go screw itself so they can sell their products exclusively in Canada.

          --
          "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
          • (Score: 1) by Nerdfest on Monday February 17 2014, @01:42PM

            by Nerdfest (80) on Monday February 17 2014, @01:42PM (#682)

            I think it's really like a US company moving to Canada so they no longer need to comply with NSA requests. Yes, their service may be blocked by the nation in question or it might be more difficult to market your service, but it's an option.

          • (Score: 1) by AudioGuy on Monday February 17 2014, @07:12PM

            by AudioGuy (24) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 17 2014, @07:12PM (#956) Journal

            That pie chart held one surprise for me, which is that 'Other Asia' is nearly as large as China. This is a very good thing, should provide some balance as China grows.

            • (Score: 1) by Vanderhoth on Monday February 17 2014, @07:19PM

              by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday February 17 2014, @07:19PM (#962)

              Yeah, it's pretty sick that the two of them together make up almost half the worlds population. I don't know why they aren't running the show already.

              --
              "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
  • (Score: 2, Informative) by ticho on Monday February 17 2014, @12:06PM

    by ticho (89) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:06PM (#597) Homepage Journal

    After reading TFS, I was left in darkness regarding what exactly is Bing doing (wrong) here. If it's the case for someone else as well, know that TFA explains it better. Who knew, right? :)

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by clone141166 on Monday February 17 2014, @12:20PM

      by clone141166 (59) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:20PM (#612)

      I hate to defend Micro$oft at all, but in this case I also can't see exactly what they are doing wrong? Simplified Chinese based searches are producing fewer results because there are fewer links to those pages in mainland China (albeit the lack of links being a result of Chinese government censorship). A search algorithm has no political affinity... how is Bing supposed to know if a page has fewer links to it because it has been censored internally in China or just because the page is unpopular in general?

      • (Score: 1) by ticho on Monday February 17 2014, @12:24PM

        by ticho (89) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:24PM (#617) Homepage Journal

        You're correct, of course. My mistake. What I meant was what exactly they are doing to cause the effect discussed in TFA.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by xlefay on Monday February 17 2014, @12:27PM

      by xlefay (65) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:27PM (#620) Journal

      From what I understand, pages that are "lesser" ranked in China (or not ranked at all) also carry that weight in search from other countries

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by TheSage on Monday February 17 2014, @12:42PM

      by TheSage (133) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 17 2014, @12:42PM (#627) Journal

      I'm trying an EE metaphor:

      The typical Page Rank algorithm works like an amplifier - giving you the main signal and ignoring the noise. The problem is, when there is an additional signal which is not as strong as the main signal. In the unmodified algorithm it gets discarded as if it were noise. This is basically the error Bing is making. Google, on the other hand, has modified the algorithm to allow for two or more signals to emerge.

      Hope that makes sense

      • (Score: 1) by clone141166 on Monday February 17 2014, @12:48PM

        by clone141166 (59) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:48PM (#634)

        That is a very nice analogy, if I hadn't posted a comment on this story already I would mod you up :)

      • (Score: 1) by tangomargarine on Monday February 17 2014, @05:40PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Monday February 17 2014, @05:40PM (#882)

        -1 Needs More Cars ;)

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by SGT CAPSLOCK on Monday February 17 2014, @12:08PM

    by SGT CAPSLOCK (118) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:08PM (#600) Journal

    As I understand it, Bing isn't really that popular in China to begin with. Actually, I'm not so sure that Google is either...

    The people affected by censorship on Chinese internet connections may npt like it, but I'm certain that it's nothing new to them. I'm certain that some yave found plenty of ways to escape the bubble though.

    • (Score: 1) by dilbert on Monday February 17 2014, @12:45PM

      by dilbert (444) on Monday February 17 2014, @12:45PM (#631)

      As I understand it, Bing isn't really that popular anywhere

      Fixed that for you.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12 2014, @04:33PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12 2014, @04:33PM (#92475)

      leXjyp pgvaglqdgkjr [pgvaglqdgkjr.com], [url=http://tevasiueqdbs.com/]tevasiueqdbs[/url], [link=http://rqixsectycsj.com/]rqixsectycsj[/link], http://todnsfciblxt.com/ [todnsfciblxt.com]

  • (Score: 1) by CoolHand on Monday February 17 2014, @01:18PM

    by CoolHand (438) on Monday February 17 2014, @01:18PM (#661) Journal

    I've been ducking things for quite a while now (year+ maybe?)... Generally it's all I need. However, I occasionally need to pop over to Google/Bing for esoteric searches..

    --
    Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job-Douglas Adams
    • (Score: 1) by everdred on Monday February 17 2014, @04:10PM

      by everdred (110) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 17 2014, @04:10PM (#805) Homepage Journal

      My experience has been about the same as yours, for about as long now. While I find myself searching Google a couple of times a day for certain specific queries, it's easy enough to do that on an ad-hoc basis through DuckDuckGo using their !bang syntax (!g for Google).

    • (Score: 1) by NovelUserName on Monday February 17 2014, @10:11PM

      by NovelUserName (768) on Monday February 17 2014, @10:11PM (#1121)

      Duckduckgo uses other search engine results to select it's result list, so even searches without the !g syntax rely on google to a certain extent. I wonder how useful the results would be without relying on the major engines?