Google stops censoring Chinese results

Out-Law News | 23 Mar 2010 | 4:24 pm | 2 min. read

Google has stopped censoring its internet search results in China and has moved the service to Hong Kong. Reports from the Chinese mainland suggest that results for controversial searches are being blocked by the Chinese government.

Google announced in January that after its services were attacked from within China it would no longer comply with Chinese laws demanding that certain results be censored. It now redirects search queries from mainland China to a Hong Kong-based service without censorship.

The BBC reported today that this has resulted in blocked pages when politically sensitive terms are searched for through that service. It said that searches for the term 'Tiananmen square', the scene of protests in 1989 resulting in a military crackdown that reportedly killed hundreds of civilians, resulted in a blocked page in mainland China, but in full results in Hong Kong.

China blocks many internet services such as Facebook and YouTube in what democracy activists say is a bid to quash political dissent.

Hong Kong is part of China but operates under a different legal system. Google said that it hoped that its move would give more people in mainland China access to more information.

"Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services – Google Search, Google News, and Google Images – on Google.cn," said Google chief legal officer David Drummond in a statement. "Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong."

Google previously complied with Chinese laws demanding that it censor its service, but it said in January that it would try to find a way to stop censoring.

Google said yesterday that it believed that its shifting of the service to Hong Kong was legal, and that it hoped to continue other operations in China, including sales and research and development work.

"The Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement," said Drummond. "We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we've faced – it's entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services."

Blogger and campaigner Michael Anti told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning that though search results were still being censored, it was significant that the censorship was now being done by the Chinese government and not by Google.

"For people who use proxies to access the internet this changes nothing because they can still choose ... to search the free internet," he said. "But for those people who used to search the self-censored .cn content they will … notice the existence of the censorship, that's the big impact, that means more and more netizens will notice the existence of the censorship. The most effective censorship should be the censorship you don't know."