Google China Kowtows to Censorship Laws
Google has done the inevitable in their bid to expand the reach of their search engine, services and advertising business in China. Google China is complying to Chinese pressure to censor controversial and ant-Chinese themes from the Google China search results.
Google.cn launched yesterday and the results of searches on the engine, or the lack of results, has led to an all out bombardment by groups like Reporters Without Borders, Supporters of Li Hongzhi’s Falun Gong practice, and the Free Tibet Campaign.
Google delivered this statement today to CNN : “In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on Google.cn, in response to local law, regulation or policy. While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.
As an emerging economic powerhouse, China is developing rapidly, thanks in no small measure to the Internet. We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China.”
Of course, the argument of free speech online and internal Chinese law is not a new one. In a country which has experienced centuries of famine, disease and revolution due to dynastic cycles and social unrest, China has stuck to a strong policy of Internet governance.
In Deng Xiaoping’s thriving Socialist Market economy, businesses which want to operate in China must of course follow Chinese law. Overtime, just as Kissinger, Nixon, Clinton and Mao have found, the long term potential of accomplishing change through working with the people and wishes of China is much more powerful than appeasing the short term preferences of interest groups by working against China.
China & MSN Spaces : The argument over freedom of Internet expression was revisited this New Year when Microsoft’s MSN Spaces shut down the blog of a popular Chinese blogger who rubbed Chinese government censors the wrong way. Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti, is a researcher for the New York Times who wrote the Beijing based blog. Apparently such subjects as cat murders (almost as bad as kitten juggling) and questionable stories about Chinese government behavior led to China working with MSN to delete the blog on New Year’s Eve.
Microsoft’s response : “Microsoft operates in countries around the world,in line with Microsoft practices in global markets, MSN is committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms, and industry practices.”
Yahoo Mail & China : Yahoo was forced by the Chinese government to hand over the information on the email address Shi Tao used to break Chinese law. In this matter Reporters Without Borders reported that Yahoo had illegally done so since the Yahoo Mail service was controlled by Yahoo Holdings, which is based in Hong Kong. The servers for the Chinese Yahoo address that Shi Tao was using are in Mainland China, not Hong Kong, which gave China jurisdiction over the Yahoo Mail address.
Yahoo Search & China : Google working with the Chinese censorship laws are not a first for search engines operating within Chinese borders. Yahoo has been censoring its Chinese language search engine for several years for questionable terms such as ‘free tibet’ or ‘falun gong’.
Banned Chinese Terms : Philipp Lessen, who has been covering the Google China controversy at Google Blogoscoped has printed a list of banned terms in Chinese search (words may be banned in Chinese launguages or English) [more from Wikipedia]:
B!tch, sh!t, falun, sex, tianwang, cdjp, av, bignews, boxun, chinaliberal, chinamz, chinesenewsnet, cnd, creaders, dafa, dajiyuan, dfdz, dpp, falu, falundafa, flg, freechina, freedom, freenet, f#ck, GCD, gcd, hongzhi, hrichina, huanet, hypermart, incest, jiangdongriji, lihongzhi, making, minghui, minghuinews, nacb, naive, nmis, paper, peacehall, playboy, renminbao, renmingbao, rfa, safeweb, simple, svdc, taip, tibetalk, triangle, triangleboy, UltraSurf, unixbox, ustibet, voa, voachinese, wangce, wstaiji, xinsheng, yuming, zhengjian, zhengjianwang, zhenshanren, zhuanfalun.
Philipp notes that “Other sources report the list of terms given to net companies who want to work in China are changing depending on current news.”