Sunday, November 07, 2004

I just saw something scary online. Following the directions I saw in a blog, I went to Google images and searched for "Lynndie England". For those who don't know, she's one of the more infamous soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal. If you've seen a picture of a dozen or so people piled in a pyramid of naked bodies, do you remember a woman standing in front of them throwing a thumbs up to the camera? That was her. Well, I searched for her on Google images. You know what I found? Nothing.

Same for her fiancé (or husband now?) and accomplice Charles Graner - only one picture comes up and it has nothing to do with the worldwide news story he was an integral part of. Hell, even search for "abu ghraib" and you'll find about a hundred pictures, and yeah some will be gruesome, but not one will be any of the pictures of torture. The guy in a hood standing on a box with electrical wires on him, the pile of naked people, of people being threatened with dogs, of people simulating sex acts - none of it is indexed by Google.

This is censorship. And I guess it's premature to call it scary like I did, but it is definitely sad. We don't know yet why this was done - a general desire to be less offensive, a lawsuit or threatened lawsuit by some "decency" group, a decision by Google owners to promote a political agenda, pressure from the administration - or what. But whichever of those reasons it is or something else entirely, information relevant to politics is being made harder to find, and it's being done covertly. We are only a few steps along this road, but it's not a road we should be on at all.


Anonymous said...

oh my god! when I searched for my name, none of the pictures of me that I know are online showed up! this is censorship, people! wait. that would stupid and reactionary. given that google is not omniscient.

Cyrus said...

Let me clarify: the pictures used to be available but they aren't any more. It's not a case of Google never having had them (though even that would be interesting, considering how comprehensive Google's database is). It's a case of Google having them up and deliberately taking them down. And it's obviously not a case of low interest in the pictures, unlike searching for a picture of you or me.

Anonymous said...

that does indeed make all the difference.

I'm still inclined to think events worked like this: google found the images on website X. website X took down the pictures for their own reason. google updated, and found no more pictures. wherever those pictures are online these days, obviously it's not on a site that google is indexing - much like they don't index my site.

write them a letter and ask.