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How Google assist Government Censorship in China(1)

Posted by Author on September 9, 2006

Human Rights Watch, August 10, 2006–

“Ten Things that Google has found to be true…
6. You can make money without doing evil.”

—Google, “Our Principles”106

“The prize is a world in which every human being starts life with the same access to information, the same opportunities to learn and the same power to communicate. I believe that is worth fighting for.”

—Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google107

“I think it’s arrogant for us to walk into a country where we are just beginning to operate and tell that country how to operate.”

—Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google108

While Google has had a Chinese language search engine since September 2000, the company did not set up a physical presence inside the People’s Republic of China until the launch of its Beijing research and development center in July 2005.109

Early problems: In September 2002, the Chinese government temporarily blocked on Chinese Internet service providers, making it completely impossible for Internet users inside China to access Google’s search engine without use of a proxy server or other circumvention tools. Instead, people typing into their search engines would be automatically re-directed to Chinese search engines. Soon after this happened, Google issued a statement that the company was working with Chinese authorities to restore access. The block was lifted after two weeks.110 In an interview not long after Google was unblocked, co-founder Sergey Brin stated that Google did not negotiate with Chinese authorities to have the search engine unblocked, and that instead “popular demand” had made it impossible to keep it blocked.111 It is not clear in what way popular demand was measured or how it changed from 2002 to 2006, when Google decided to launch the censored site.

However, testing conducted by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) in 2004 concluded thatGoogle “while Google is accessible to Chinese users, not all of its functions are available; because of China’s content filtering technologies, users of Google within China experience a much different Google than those outside.” China was (and still is) blocking––at the service router level––all access to Google’s “cache” (the link provided along with each search that enables you to access an earlier “snapshot” of the webpage you are looking for, in case the real version has been taken down or rendered inaccessible for whatever reason.112

Additionally, as with all search results, the ONI test found that the Chinese censorship system was blocking thousands of Google search results that would manifest in one of two ways: 1) When a search on a particular word or phrase yielded links to banned sites being filtered by the Chinese “firewall,” the user encounters an error page upon clicking on one of the censored links. There is no warning that this will happen and no explanation after it happened that the failure to connect to the page is not the result of user error or technical failure but deliberate blockage. 2) When the user types certain keywords into a Google search, their connection to Google is terminated and they receive no search results. Again there is no explanation for why this happens. As the ONI points out, “Neither China’s keyword filtering nor the mechanism used to filter the Google cache is specific to Google.”113 In other words, the actual censorship being done in this case is by employees of the Internet Service Providers and by Chinese government employees, not by Google employees. (to be cont’d)

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

– From IV. How Multinational Internet Companies assist Government Censorship in China,
of “Race to the Bottom: Corporate Complicity in Chinese Internet Censorship,” by Human Rights Watch

One Response to “How Google assist Government Censorship in China(1)”

  1. […] But: Google is not impartial. They make changes to the search-algorithm and even yield to demands of governments not to show certain pages (for instance in China). When I talked to Dr. Schindler afterwards, I asked him about the censorship issue and he replied that all Google does is complying with the law in those countries. Just as Google in Germany does not link to child pornography, it will link not link to some sites forbidden by the Chinese government. […]

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