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April 03, 2005

Economist.com | The French Language

The Economist reports on the French government's struggle with Google:

Economist.com | The French language: IN THE dimly lit cyber-café at Sciences-Po, hot-house of the French elite, no Gauloise smoke fills the air, no dog-eared copies of Sartre lie on the tables. French students are doing what all students do: surfing the web via Google. Now President Jacques Chirac wants to stop this American cultural invasion by setting up a rival French search-engine. The idea was prompted by Google's plan to put online millions of texts from American and British university libraries. If English books are threatening to swamp cyberspace, Mr Chirac will not stand idly by. He asked his culture minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, and Jean-Noël Jeanneney, head of France's Bibliothèque Nationale, to do the same for French texts—-and create a home-grown search-engine to browse them. Why not let Google do the job? Its French version is used for 74% of internet searches in France. The answer is the vulgar criteria it uses to rank results. ‘I do not believe’, wrote Mr Donnedieu de Vabres in Le Monde, ‘that the only key to access our culture should be the automatic ranking by popularity, which has been behind Google's success.’...

Googlephobia is spreading. Mr Jeanneney has talked of the ‘risk of crushing domination by America in defining the view that future generations have of the world.’ ‘I have nothing in particular against Google,’ he told L'Express, a magazine. ‘I simply note that this commercial company is the expression of the American system, in which the law of the market is king.’ Advertising muscle and consumer demand should not triumph over good taste and cultural sophistication.... Mr Jeanneney wants a ‘committee of experts’...

Posted by DeLong at April 3, 2005 09:58 PM