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Google Stops Censoring Content In China

Gordon Kelly


Google Stops Censoring Content In China

Back in February Google discovered that dozens of human rights activists with Gmail accounts were routinely being hacked and accessed by third parties in China via phishing scams. Google said when combined with the country's attempts to "further limit free speech on the web" it would be no longer willing to censor its own content and services if no compromise was found. Was Google really ready to risk enraging the Chinese government? We got the answer late last night: an emphatic yes!

"Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn," said Google chief legal office David Drummond on the company's official blog. "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. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk."

"Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard," Drummond admitted. "We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. 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."

In the meantime Google has set up a Mainland China service availability page which keeps a check of which services the Chinese government allows, blocks or partially blocks. At present YouTube, 'Sites' (presumably search?) and Blogger are blocked with Docs, Picassa and Groups partially blocked.

Unlike the rest of the World, use of the Google search engine is small in China so it is doubtful whether the attention this story has received elsewhere will be seen as a particularly big deal there - let alone reported as such. For Google's part though, we would agree that free speech is something very much worth fighting for. On the other hand, whether Google's chosen course of drastic action is the best one is another question entirely...


Official Blog Post

Mainland China service availability


March 23, 2010, 4:40 pm

They should never have entered China in the first place. Period. Signing that 'Deal' with the P.R.C. was a bad move for Google's image and was only ever going to end badly. This story has taken on so many political undertones that I wouldn't be surprised if things got a lot worse before any 'perceived' solution is found.

Tarik Bos

March 23, 2010, 5:05 pm

i don't know about you guys but i think its marketing genius. risk your small and less valuable user base in china to present yourself as the great freedom fighter of china. next step is getting a picture of a sweaty google CEO with a strip of garment strapped around his head and torn of sleeves rescueing some tibet children from the government.

and the smart thing is, they're propably not eve risking anything more than a fine, and once china blocks acces to the site they're just gonna go "a well we gave it a try, lets reactive the censoring"


March 23, 2010, 7:41 pm

Yes, can't see this solution lasting more then a couple of days, even hours. All they're going to do is risk facing the wrath of China - it's like poking a stick into an angry bee's nest. And I read somewhere they have around 30% of the Chinese search market - not an insubstantial figure - though it's good to see a company putting morals before profit.


March 24, 2010, 12:58 pm

Google sites is google's free template based website hosting service. I wasn't sure what it was either, Gordon, but then I googled it to find out!

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