Google Censor: Exclusive Interview Google Censor: Exclusive Interview

By our man who knows what to do with a rubber, How Tenji

In an exclusive interview with Utterpants, Google UK answer some tricky questions about Internet censorship

When Utterpants received an unexpected telephone call from the London Sales and Engineering Office of Google Inc as part of a new initiative to improve the search engine's woeful record of webmaster relations, no one could have been more surprised than our webmistress. Indeed, she was so surprised she is currently under sedation, pending a full medical examination by a leading neurologist—or possibly an amateur gynaecologist from Berrien Springs, Michigan. Consequently, it was our executive editor who entered the hallowed portals of Belgrave House, at 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1 (telephone: +44 (0) 20 7031 3000), to be ushered into a thickly carpeted office at 10.30 on a sunny, Friday morning.

Utterpants: Thank you for sparing the time to speak to us. As chief censor at Google.co.uk you must be very busy.
C*ns*r: Er...I would prefer it if we didn’t use that word.
Utterpants: Which word?
C*ns*r: I can’t say.
Utterpants: Do you mean censor?
C*ns*r: Possibly.
Utterpants: Well, how would you describe yourself?
C*ns*r: Male, 5’6’’, 12 stone, dark hair…
Utterpants: No, your job.
C*ns*r: Is that relevant?
Utterpants: Well yes, it's rather what we came to talk to you about.
C*ns*r: Right. Fire away.
Utterpants: What is your job?
C*ns*r: Quality control.
Utterpants: That must be a very responsible position.
C*ns*r: Gosh yes, I have a real desk, VOIP 'phone, coloured pens, monogrammed Sergey Brin frock—everything.
Utterpants: Sergey Brin frock?
C*ns*r: Er...the co-founder of Google. Mr Brin likes us to dress in women's clothing. He says it's more...um...comfy...lets the creative juices flow, you know?
Utterpants: So why are you wearing a three-piece suit and tie?
C*ns*r: Well, it's Friday. Friday is our casual day.
Utterpants: Right...So what exactly do you control?

C*ns*r: Well…quality, mainly.
Utterpants: You don’t have any aspirin do you? I think one of my sick headaches is starting… can you give me an example of what you do?
C*ns*r: Well, I look at the Internet with Google and then I try to control the quality.
Utterpants: That must be very satisfying. Please give our readers an example of one of the features of Google which you have improved.
C*ns*r: Why would I want to do that?
Utterpants: Well, er, because this is an interview.
C*ns*r: No, why would I want to improve Google?
Utterpants: Because it's your job?
C*ns*r: No it isn’t.
Utterpants: Yes it is; you just said it was.
C*ns*r: No I didn’t.
Utterpants: Er… what is your job?
C*ns*r: Well, I look at the Internet with Google and then I try to control the quality.
Utterpants:…of Google?
C*ns*r: Not exactly.
Utterpants: You mean you try to control the quality of the Internet.
C*ns*r: Have you been on holiday this year? We have some very nice search results for holidays. Skiing, sun, sand, surf, island, palm tree, azure skies—all linked to some fantastic deals. Why not give it a try?
Utterpants: Are you changing the subject?
C*ns*r: Absolutely not, leisure pursuits and shopping are big online growth areas.

Utterpants: I came here to ask about censorship
C*ns*r: No you didn’t. You wanted to talk about holidays or shopping, or maybe pornography. Google are committed to getting pornography off the Internet, you know. Which is why our respected Adsense programme doesn't accept any adult websites.
Utterpants: Hang on a minute! Your search results pages are brimming over with sponsored ads for pornography. Aren't they paid for by pornographers using your Adsense programme?
C*ns*r: Certainly not! You're confusing Adsense with Adwords. You really should have done your homework before coming to this interview, shouldn't you?
Utterpants: I...er...
C*ns*r: Look, it's really very simple. We only show adult Adwords adverts on adult Adsense search results pages if the adult Adwords are matched by adult Adsense keywords on the webpages we index. Unless, of course the Adwords an adult advertiser is bidding for are non-adult Adwords that could be misinterpreted as adult Adwords by adults searching for non-adult keywords. In which case our search results pages may return adult Adwords adverts even though non-adults were searching for non-adult keywords like 'hoes' or 'showers.'
Utterpants: That sounds like complete gobbledegook to me.
C*ns*r: Actually, we call it Googledeegook. It certainly impressed the US Department of Justice and of course, the Chinese love it.
Utterpants: Chinese?
C*ns*r: No thanks, I've just ordered a pizza...

Utterpants: Isn't all this rather Machiavellian?
C*ns*r: Macky who? Do they work for us?
Utterpants: Look, I’m interested in free speech, not pornography. I want an explanation of why you're censoring perfectly legitimate UK satire websites.
C*ns*r: I really would prefer it if you didn’t use that word.
Utterpants: What word? Satire?
C*ns*r: I'd rather not say.
Utterpants: Some people are saying this is an American anti-UK conspiracy—an attempt at propping up their declining satire industry in the wake of President Bush's repression of free speech.
C*ns*r: Do you like my multi-coloured Google pen? It writes in red, blue, yellow and green. Larry Page has one just like it.
Utterpants: Don't try to change the subject. I came here for a free and frank exchange of views about censorship.
C*ns*r: No you didn’t, you want to buy a pre-enjoyed silk thong and a fortnight in Ibiza.
Utterpants: You can’t tell me what I want.
C*ns*r: Yes I can.
Utterpants: Just because you ignore bits of the web you don’t like it won't make them go away, you know.
C*ns*r: Yes it will.

Utterpants: You can’t behave like this, it's covert and uncontrolled censorship by a gigantic, faceless corporation. What about human rights? Free speech? Freedom of the press?
C*ns*r: That's a very pretty dress. Sergey Brin has one just like it. Did you find it on Froogle?
Utterpants: What? No I did not! Now look—
C*ns*r: Pity. A beautiful woman like you could save a fortune on make-up, clothes and super holidays simply by clicking on a few of our clients' adverts. Our research shows that 103% of women go online to shop for clothes and holidays and we're committed to upholding these fundamental human rights.
Utterpants: Now—look, I will not be ignored like this...did you just say 'human rights?'
C*ns*r: No.
Utterpants: Yes you did.
C*ns*r: No I didn't. I was talking about shopping.
Utterpants: This is ridiculous. Why can't you answer a simple question?
C*ns*r: What question?
Utterpants: Why are you censoring British satire sites?
C*ns*r: Are we?
Utterpants: You know damn well you are.
C*ns*r: Perhaps they're not very popular with shoppers. Popularity is a key component of quality control, you know. Are they selling holidays or thongs? Buying sponsored advertising No? Well, there you are, then.

Utterpants: It's all about money to you, isn't it?
C*ns*r: Certainly not! My job is controlling quality. And quality control is all about weeding out unpopular content. No one shops for satire, do they?
Utterpants: Can we get off the shopping trolley please! I came here to talk about censorship.
C*ns*r: I’m sorry, your search did not match any documents.
Utterpants: You can’t ignore me, I won't go away, you know. I'll sit here until you answer my questions.
C*ns*r: Who said that? Hello? Is that the pizza I ordered? Would you like a multi-coloured Google pen? Gmail account? Our new desktop shopping toolbar? No? Well...if you're sure...

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© 2005 How Tenji, Miranda Givings & utterpants.co.uk / 100206

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