Google has been spending a lot of time trying to work out how to keep their product – the world’s most used search engine – operating in China (home to the most internet users in the world), while keeping in accordance with the strict information censorship enforced by the Chinese government, but now Google have decided to bail out of the censored version in a controversial and brazen move.
The China-based search site Google.cn was shut down on Monday and users are being re-directed to Google.com.hk – where it will offer uncensored Chinese-language search services. This is a move that is guaranteed to piss off the Chinese government.
Google released the following statement:
“Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. 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.”
That said, politically “sensitive” content search censoring is – or should I say, was – a service that Google voluntarily offered China since launching Google.cn in 2006. Therefore, Google’s decision to stop censoring drew an immediate response from state-run Chinese media and officials who called it “totally wrong”.
The political implications for the already unstable relationship between China and the U.S.A. (AKA home of Google) and attitudes toward internet censorship, has become increasingly tense as a result of this issue.
Hong Kong has legal rights that the rest of China doesn’t under the “one country, two systems” approach – previously allowing Google to have a Chinese-based uncensored search engine available to Hong Kong residents, whereas the majority of Chinese internet users had restricted access. The bonus of censoring is that it keeps child porn and offensive content out of view from predators and children, respectively. However there are some things (other than 24 hour porn) the internet has provided access to that all human beings have a right to appreciate:
Hilarious hamsters notwithstanding, somehow it is within the realms of comprehension that China’s government – among other (paranoid) people – are hesitant about unleashing the full force of Google’s powers.
ABC TV’s news program Hungry Beast did an eye-opening segment on the extensive – and somewhat Orwellian – reach and knowledge contained within the millions of pages that Google has a hold of: