Google Japan Q & A

In my previous post about Loren Baker and yours truly visiting Google Japan, I posted pictures and promised to post again about the discussions we had.


Loren Baker and I spoke with Kaori Saito & Angela Lee. Kaori Saito’s business card lists her as a PR Specialist, and Angela Lee’s business card lists her as an International Product Manager. Kaori Saito is of course Japanese; Angela Lee, like me, was raised in Japan and is also fluent in Japanese.

When Loren Baker and I arrived, I suspected that we might be given a short interview with an uninformed and disinterested PR department lackey. To my surprise, Both Angela Lee and Kaori Saito were extremely well informed about Google’s algorithm, policies and personnel. Both ladies were professional and I was impressed by the warmth and kindness with which they welcomed Loren Baker and I.

I guess I had expected more snobbery from Google, but instead they suggested that I drop by at any time for free coffee and snacks.

First up, Loren talked about Orkut. Blah blah blah. I’m sorry but Orkut is a royal spamfest, IMO, and I think I may have dozed off during this part of the meeting.

Next up, we talked about Matt Cutts. Nothing serious, just general chat about the amazing popularity of his blog.

We also discussed Google Japan’s algorithm in regards to anchor text and ranking of pages where different Japanese syllabaries are used. Written (typed) Japanese uses two syllabaries and kanji. But more about that in a future post on SEO in Japanese.

Google Censorship in China

At some point in the interview, Google’s censorship of China was referenced but immediately dismissed without any assignment of blame. It seemed a little too forgiving for my tastes, so I decided to pursue it a bit, and for the sake of debate, I made clear my personal position. That being, Google should never censor results, and that it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I referenced the difference in results between these two searches:

http://images.google.cn/images?q=tiananmen

http://images.google.com/images?q=tiananmen

I was kind of walking a fine line. I didn’t want to come off as anti-Google. Even though I am sometimes anti-Google, it’s not the time or place to be anti-Google. I was their guest, and owed them the courtesy a guest owes his host. But on the other hand, my blood boils when I see those SERPs.

So, with all due respect and politeness, I did express my horror at Google’s censorship.

Both Angela Lee and Kaori Saito responded, but the majority of the response came from Angela Lee. She did confirm the censorship, and went on to explain that in China, she had experienced first hand the Chinese Super Firewall. Angela told us that sometimes a search query using a forbidden term will result in instantaneous loss of Internet access for the computer used to execute the query, or if repeated for the entire building.

Given these circumstances, Google opted to comply with China’s censors on just a very limited basis.

Both Angela Lee and Kaori Saito stated that no Googler was happy about the censorship.

Google & Japanese Police

After discussing Google’s censorship in China, we spoke briefly about the US Justice Dept subpoena of search data, and Google’s response. I may have been too intently monitoring the lava lamps because I don’t recall anything that was said on that topic.

But then the discussion turned to Google Japan and its dealings with Japanese police. Kaori Saito stated that Japanese police often request data from Google Japan. Japanese police often request that certain websites be removed from the search index. Google Japan refuses to comply with the majority of these requests, and only complies with those requests when they are made with a court order or with compelling evidence of illegal activity (CP, etc).

I wasn’t at all surprised with Google’s refusal to comply with police requests. My attorneys have served both Yahoo! and Google with court orders (TRO’s) in the past, and neither complied. But more about that later.

Overall, I was impressed with the sincerity of Kaori and Angela and their honesty in regard to their feelings about Google’s censorship in China.

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