Tag Archives: Google

Sexist searches. A look at the most common search terms on Google

UN Women has created a powerful new advertising campaign that uses data collected from Google on the most popular search terms related to ‘women’. The results are indicative of the entrenched sexist attitudes that still persist in our online communities.

This is just one snap-shot of our global on-line community but is sadly supportive of the documented sexism on other online projects such as #EveryDaySexism.





Please share these images with friends and family. As my good friend Angelique Mulholland wrote in the F-Word, both men and women need to be addressing this! Start with something simple like posting these images on facebook or twitter.

1 Comment

Filed under Human rights, Spoken Word

Google, human rights and censorship

Google is a gateway to the internet, to a wealth of information that many take for granted (Google handles about 34,000 searches every second – that’s about 2 million every minute).

As our desire for, and access to, information has grown, few have questioned what happens when this information is restricted or controlled. This article asks, what happens when the ‘Google gateway’ to information is shut?

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”

In other words, it is a human right to be able to impart and receive information through any media – this includes Google and the video hosting company YouTube (owned by Google).

Google recently found itself in the difficult situation of hosting a video which has provoked wide-spread rioting across the Arab world. It has since decided to block this video in a number of countries, including Egypt and Libya.

They took this action despite Google officially stating thatThis video — which is widely available on the Web — is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube…However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries.”

So Google made this decision to block the video due to the ‘difficult situation in Libya and Egypt’.

By ‘difficult situation’ one can only assume they mean vested American interests being ruffled. I say this as I cannot see any rationale to blocking the video in these countries and not others. Did they not think it might pose a security threat in Palestine for example?

Of course freedom of speech comes with responsibilities and limitations and some would argue that this is Google living up to those responsibilities.  Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights states:

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals”

On the one hand Google has an obligation to not unduly ‘interfere’ and restrict the imparting or receiving of information. On the other hand it has an obligation to judge when something is in the ‘interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety’. In a globalised internet generation, it is an ethical tightrope that they are trying to walk.

Kevin Bankston, director of the free expression project at the Centre for Democracy and Technology expanded saying, “Google is walking a precarious line…[blocking the video] sends the message that if you violently object to speech you disagree with, you can get it censored… [however] It seems they’re trying to balance the concern about censorship with the threat of actual violence in Egypt and Libya”.

From this incident there remain at least two important questions. Firstly, have Google been open, transparent and consistent about why and where they choose to block content? I think not.

Secondly, what mechanisms are in place to provide scrutiny and oversight to these global powerhouses that have become the brokers of freedom of expression in an internet age?

Can a company accurately decide what the impact of words, images or film produced in one part of the world, have in another? Is it their responsibility to act as world police to protect people through censorship of potentially offensive material?

There are no easy answers to these questions that potentially pitch human rights up against ‘common sense’ pragmatic restrictions that might save lives.

Leave a comment

Filed under Human rights, Media, Middle East, Politics

Rupert Murdoch is not the enlightened leader of free speach and free media.

Rupert Murdoch, not the leader of the free press, like some Italians would like to believe. Photo thanks to World Economic forum

This might seem like an obvious comment to make, but Rupert Murdoch is not an all enlightened leader of liberal journalists bringing the truth to the door steps of billions of people.  I say this, because just recently there has been a wave of people who seem to be getting rather confused about this issue. 

The Times recently ran the lead column of “Google’s decision to pull out of China was the right one” (I will come back to this later).  Equally, I recently had the very bizarre experience of attending a protest outside the European Commission about media monopolies in Italy, when friends of mine starting to suggest that Murdoch’s media empire represented a “truthful form of journalism”.  This can surely only be the case when comparing it to the lowest forms of media monopolies, such as is found in Italy.

Lets make this abundantly clear, Murdoch runs a media empire which has sticky fingers in quite a few pies; to name a few…The sun, The Times (UK), Fox news, BSkyB, The News of the World, Star TV, The Australian, New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.  This would be bad, just by itself, but this does not take into consideration Murdoch’s political nature (that’s right it’s not only Berlusconi who has political interests). Murdoch has a long history of sticking his nose in. 

Throughout the Thatcher years, he aligned himself closely with the Iron Lady and soon after that The Sun accredited itself for ensuring John Major won his election in 1992.  Since then however (until recently) he has thrown his weight behind New Labour.  If Murdoch is one thing, he is pragmatic.  In 2008, he flew Cameron on his private jet for talks predicting a New Labour implosion.  It is not just in the UK, in the US; Fox news is notorious for its Republican bias. Yet, just recently there has been a reported “Truce” between Obama and Murdoch.

Perhaps, to try to live up to his Italian counterpart (who owns AC Milan FC), Murdoch offered 625 million pounds in 1998 in a bid to take over Manchester United FC.  Then, the largest amount ever offered for a football club. 

Murdoch is truly a pragmatist! To illustrate, lets look a little closer at his paper running the Google headline.  Murdoch who, axed BBC world service off its Star satellite service Asia after it mentioned the Tiananmen square massacre, ordered the publishing house Harper Collins to drop Chris Pattern’s memoirs of his time as governor of Hong Kong, encase they offend Beijing and paid 1 million dollars for the rights to publish the life story of Deng Xiaoping to get in with the Chinese government (All this can be found in the 22 Jan – 4 Feb Private Eye) is in no position to comment on Google’s activities.  To call Google “parasites” for their action in China might seem just a little hypocritical.

Murdoch remains at the helm of the world’s second largest media outlets (after Disney), and I personally would not believe a word any of his outlets print!

Increasingly however, alternative media outlets have cropped up.  Grass-root initiatives such as Indymedia provide first hand accounts of news without the necessity to make the millions of dollars that the likes of news corp.  This organisation was born out of a frustration of lack of accurate coverage of the WTO protests in Seattle.  We can take organisations like these with a small pinch of salt.  Yet, I would trust these guys over Murdoch any day.  I challenge anyone to read a couple copies of private eye and not become just a little sceptical.


Filed under Politics