An article at Wired reminds us that Google Search is not the objective source of information it appears to many users. We learn that “A New Tool Shows How Google Results Vary Around the World.” Researchers and PhD students Rodrigo Ochigame of MIT and Katherine Ye of Carnegie Mellon University created Search Atlas, an experimental Google Search interface. The tool displays three different sets of results to the same query based on location and language, illustrating both cultural differences and government preferences. “Information borders,” they call it.
The first example involves image searches for “Tiananmen Square.” Users in the UK and Singapore are shown pictures of the government’s crackdown on student protests in 1989. Those in China, or elsewhere using the Chinese language setting, see pretty photos of a popular tourist destination. Google says the difference has nothing to do with censorship—they officially stopped cooperating with the Chinese government on that in 2010, after all. It is just a matter of localized results for those deemed likely to be planning a trip. Sure. Writer Tom Simonite describes more of the tool’s results: