Some Things You Can’t Google…

Google’s company slogan is “Do No Evil.”  Yet, an article on Salem-News.com from March 18, 2012 accuses Google of “aiding war criminals.”

The article describes an interesting issue with Google Earth’s satellite images over certain areas of Sri Lanka where a genocide is believed to have taken place.  The photos of the area in question (the location of supposed killing “fields”) are from 2005, before the genocide began, whereas all the images of the surrounding areas are from 2009.  Additionally, there is a curious haze over this area, obscuring the ground in the area.

 

Screenshot from Google Maps March 19, 2012

In his book, The Master Switch, Tim Wu warns that Google possesses too much power because their services are the lens through which most web users locate and access information on the web.  With this power to deliver vast amounts of information to the computers of millions of people worldwide also comes to power to restrict the dissemination of certain information.  Could Google be hiding something from us? It’s certainly possible.

While accusations of accepting bribes from the Sri Lankan government and dishonest journalism may materialize, it’s important to remember that there very well could be a reasonable explanation for this curious, coincidental phenomenon.  However, it’s equally important to recognize this as an example of how powerful Google has become.

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KONY Copycat?

A recent humanitarian movement hoping to get the word out about human suffering is using a Youtube video, and celebrity and policymaker endorsements in an attempt to consolidate public opinion behind them to incite government intervention. And no, I’m not talking about Invisible Children’s KONY2012. This is a different (although eerily similar) movement, #UniteForSyria, that launched 22 hours ago, just 10 days after KONY2012. While KONY2012 aims to help those in Central Africa suffering due to the Lord’s Resistance Army through US military aid, #UniteForSyria is about ending the past year’s violence accompanying the revolution in Syria through a UN Security Council resolution.

Both involving NGOs, Twitter, celebrities, policymakers, and a keystone Youtube video, one can only wonder how closely the #UniteForSyria is modeled after its predecessor. They are, indeed, quite similar. However, there is a crucial difference. #UniteForSyria has garnered the endorsement of an international group of celebrities and policymakers, and targets a global audience, as opposed to KONY2012’s narrow, stateside focus. According to a Global Voices news bulletin dated March 13, 2012, the movement to “Unite for Syria and Stop One Year of bloodshed” has the backing of 50 global leaders. Additionally, their video contains endorsements from Indonesian, British, German, Egyptian, and, most crucially, Syrian celebrities.

The most salient criticism of KONY2012 has been their failure to consider and present the views of actual Central Africans. Many locals in Uganda and the surrounding countries who have seen the KONY2012 video have taken serious offense with its approach and its rhetoric. With the support of native Syrians behind them, #UniteForSyria demonstrates a deeper, more pure understanding of the conflict.