Tag: msn

Thinkhouse PR

Damien’s post on Thinkhouse PR appears to have been removed from the Google index.

If you do a Google search for the post, you can find a copy of it in Irishblogs.ie but not the original post on Damien’s blog. The post is still in MSN and Yahoo according to Damien. How bizarre!

The only explanation which makes any sense to me is that Google might have removed the post from their index if they received a legal letter from Thinkhouse PR (or perhaps some concerned web surfer acting in their interest).

I could be more direct in my assertions if the libel laws in this country weren’t so strict.

The text of Damien’s post was innocuous enough to my mind – he merely mentioned that he had complained them to the Data Protection Commissioner for repeatedly sending him unsolicited commercial emails (spam) despite being asked not to.

With Damien’s permission, here is the text of his banned post:

Hi everyone in Thinkhouse PR! As promised, here is my formal complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner for being repeatedly spammed by you on behalf of your clients. Just so you know I’ve also, as promised, contacted Three, Imagine and Ben and Jerry’s Ireland and asked them to investigate why I am getting spams about their products from you.

I’m writing to make a formal complaint against Thinkhouse PR for continually sending unsolicited emails to one of my email accounts despite being asked not to. The email account in question is info [at] irelandoffline.org a part-time non-commercial voluntary group.

Enclosed are 5 sets of documents. Thinkhouse contacted info@irelandoffline.org (which is shared with a colleague John Timmons) initially on behalf of their client Imagine who were releasing a new broadband product. We did not ask to be put on further email distributions for Imagine or for anyone else.

Despite this, on Fri August 4th Jane McDonald from Thinkhouse sent an email promoting an initiative from Ben and Jerry’s. (See document No. 2) Ben and Jerry’s are a client of Thinkhouse. My reply to this unsolicited email is at the end of the document.

Jane McDonald replied to this (see document No. 3) and gave the excuse that there was some kind of slip and my email address was put into a personal circular. I would not consider it was a personal mail. Jane seems to suggest that Thinkhouse are aware of spamming laws.

On August 18th Thinkhouse PR sent me another mail, a press release for the mobile phone operator “3�. (See document no. 4. This document is the back and forth communication between myself and Thinkhouse PR.) At the top of the document is a communication from Jane McDonald telling me once again I’m off everyone’s list after I again requested it. Jane also admits to using my email address without permission to add me to their mailing lists.

On August 22nd (see document No. 5) Andrea Horan from Thinkhouse PR again sent me a PR, this time for another of their clients. This one for Moviestar.ie.

I wish for the Data Protection Commissioner to investigate this and carry out a prosecution if needs be. I am willing to travel to Dublin, I am willing to make a written statement and I am willing to testify in Court if the need arises. Thinkhouse PR is contravening the Irish Spam Legislation and it is totally disregarding my repeated requests to stop being sent information. I have also asked for my contact details to be removed from their systems and this has been disregarded too.

Please contact me on receipt of this complaint. Contact details are above.
Regards,
Damien Mulley

Could podcasting get content through the Great Firewall of China?

I wrote a couple of pieces last week about Google’s Internet censorship in China and the debate continues this week.

The four largest American companies who are actively helping the Chinese government censor the Internet are Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Cisco Systems. These four companies have been invited to a U.S. congressional subcommittee hearing on February 15 on the subject of U.S. Internet firms operating procedures in China.

The ‘fab four’ failed to turn up for a hearing this Wednesday are were roundly berated by Tom Lantos, D.-Calif., one of the caucus leaders:

Companies that have blossomed in this country and make billions, a country that reveres freedom of speech, have chosen to ignore that core value in expanding their reach overseas, and to erect a ‘Great Firewall’ to suit Beijing’s purposes,” he said. “These massively successful high-tech companies, which couldn’t bring themselves to send their representatives to this meeting today, should be ashamed. With all their power and influence, wealth and high visibility, they neglected to commit to the kind of positive action that human rights activists in China take every day. They caved in to Beijing’s demands for the sake of profits, or whatever else they choose to call it.

It is thought they will attend the Feb 15th hearing!

I note see now that the BBC are reporting that MSN is considering changing its censorship policies:

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s senior lawyer, said it would now remove blog entries only if it gets a “legally binding notice” from the government of that nation…. He added that only people in the nation where the entry breaks local laws will be blocked from seeing the controversial comments. In all other nations access to the entry will be unrestricted.

This is a marginal improvement over MSN’s existing policy of deleting accounts of people who wrote about ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, or ‘demonstration’ but it is still shoring up the ‘great firewall‘ of China.

Interestingly, Reuters is reporting that Bill Gates has come out against censorship today:

The spread of private e-mail means online users could distribute banned news despite government injunctions, he told a news conference.

“You may be able to take a very visible Web site and say that something shouldn’t be there, but if there’s a desire by the population to know something, it’s going to get out,” he said.

However, Gates said Microsoft, the world’s biggest computer software company, had to meet legal requirements of the countries where it does business.

I have spoken to several representatives of search engines recently and they have all told me that search engines are not indexing the audio content of podcasts and don’t have technologies to do so right now.

I wonder, if podcasts are more difficult to index, is there a role for podcasts to get content through the Great Firewall?

Google censors the Internet

The New York Times published an article yesterday (and I think I heard a reference this morning on Morning Ireland) about Google’s new Google.cn site.

According to the article, the new Chinese version of the Google search engine:

will not allow users to create personal links with Google e-mail or blog sites, will comply with Chinese law and censor information deemed inappropriate or illegal by the Chinese authorities

One of the reasons Google is hobbling its own technology in China is that Google.com is losing ground in the search market in China to Baidu.com – a Chinese search engine due to government censorship on some of Google.com’s content. A pre-censored Google.cn should have no such issues.

Google will argue that it is not putting profit before human rights – it is merely complying with the law of the land it wants to make profits in (they might not use that terminology exactly!) – the same as all the other major tech suppliers working in China (Cisco, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.). However, if these companies worked together, they could flout the repressive laws in China and theree would be little the Chinese Government could do against such a united front from their most important IT suppliers.

The price of doing business in China? You have to be prepared to sell your soul.

UPDATE:
I see John Battelle and Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch have pieces on this as well.

Google’s motto of “Do no Evil” should now be changed to “Do no Evil (unless it interferes with the bottom line)”, I guess!

Web 2.0 to suffer from United States Department of Justice request?

I see Xeni Jardin over at Boing Boing has posted an article on how the US Department of Justice have requested a weeks worth of search data from the major US search engines. Seemingly Yahoo, AOL, and MSN simply handed over the data without any question. Google however held out and is now being taken to court by the DoJ for refusing to comply with the order.

Google’s reason for not complying? Well it wasn’t on privacy grounds, nope, Google refused on grounds that the request was too broad and burdensome!

The Department of Justice is playing the monsters under the bed children protection card:

the information it has requested, which includes one million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from a one-week period, is essential to its upcoming defense of the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act

Danny Sullivan over at SearchEngineWatch has a rapidly updating analysis of this story – according to Danny:

a more accurate way for the government to assess how often children might encounter porn through search engines would be to conduct their own research. Indeed, they have. Government Report Says MSN Search Adult Filter Most Effective from the SEW Blog back in June covers this report (PDF format) that the US Government Accountability Office did back in June. From what I can see, it measured how often children might encounter porn through image search. To do the assessment, no subpoenas were required.

What was interesting for me was how the other search engines caved and handed over the data. I was interviewing Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! the other night for a Podleaders.com podcast and, in the context of Yahoo! having previously provided information to the Chinese Government which resulted in a Chinese journalist being jailed for 10 years, I specifically asked him:

If this had happened in the US would Yahoo! have fought the government request in the courts?

Bradley’s response was interesting – he said:

We are bound to abide by the laws of any country in which we do business… so under a court order or a subpoena we would hand it over

In this case however, as far as I know, there was no court order or subpoena – simply a request from the Department of Justice. In fairness to Bradley he makes it clear that he is not a policy officer of Yahoo! and Yahoo! are not the only search engine which complied with the request.

However, you have to think that this request is only setting a precedent for far more reaching and specific requests to come in the future. What will this do to Web 2.0 and people’s willingnes to host their data on other companies servers, I wonder?

I see Damien Mulley has posted on this as well.

UPDATE:
John Battelle has published another post on this subject showing that the Department of Justice’s motives are far darker than previously suspected – specifically:

From the motion the DOJ filed to force Google to comply with the subpoena:

“The subpoena asks Google to produce an electronic file containing ‘[a]ll URL’s that rea available to be located through a query on your company’s search engine as of July 31 2005.”

and

“all queries that have been entered on your company’ search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005.”

God alone knows why they would want all that data from Google (and presumably the other search engines as well) – but we know it has nothing to do with seeing if children can access porn.

As John said:

No way in hell Google would give that up, given the company’s penchant for secrecy. Sure, the DOJ might guarantee that the data would not enter the public record, but, once in the DOJ’s hands, it’s out of Google’s control.

Microsoft follow Google into Book Search

I had a much longer post prepared about this but I lost it when I had a server crash (due to my playing around with my .htaccess file!).

Anyway, according to the BBC, Microsoft are following Google’s lead into the Book Search arena.

MSNBC’s report states that Microsoft are teaming up with Yahoo! and the Open Content Alliance and they hope to:

sidestep hot-button copyright issues for now by initially focusing mainly on books, academic materials and other publications that are in the public domain… to let users search about 150,000 pieces of published material. A test version of the product is promised for next year.

Google’s Print project, on the other hand, promises to index millions of books and to remove from the index any books whose author requests they do so.

In terms of usefulness, a search index of millions of books will be orders of magnitude better than one with a mere 150,000 books – now if only Google can overcome the silly legal objections.