Leading Internet search engine Google has announced that it will censor its search services in China in order to gain greater access to China’s fast-growing online market. Google has offered a Chinese language version of its search engine for a number of years but numerable government blocks on the site, which restrict the users’ access to many web sites, have frustrated users greatly.
Hence, Google has decided to set-up a new web site called Google.cn, which it will subsequently censor in order to satisfy the authorities in Beijing. Google argued it would be more damaging to pull out of China altogether and not allow the Chinese masses access to the global search engine. Google will also want to grab another portion of the market in the second largest country in the world in order to secure immense growth prospects in the future.
Critics warn the new version could restrict access to thousands of sensitive terms and web sites, many of which could be avoided. Such topics are likely to include independence for Taiwan and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, amongst other sensitive issues the Chinese government want to censor.
The Chinese government keeps a tight rein on the Internet and what users can access. For example, the BBC news site is inaccessible, while a search on Google.cn for the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement directs users to a string of condemnatory articles. This is, in principal, against the moral background of Google, who have always ensured a fair and accurate representation of the search terms entered.
Google’s move in China comes less than a week after it resisted efforts by the US Department of Justice to make it disclose data on what people were searching for.
Google hopes its new address will make the search engine easier to use and quicker. Its e-mail, chat room and blogging services will not be available because of concerns the government could demand users’ personal information. Google said it planned to notify users when access had been restricted on certain search terms.
The company argues it can play a more useful role in China by participating than by boycotting it, despite the compromises involved.
“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,” a statement said.
The number of Internet search users in China is predicted to increase from about 100 million currently to 187 million in two years’ time. This really does highlight the urgency in which Google have moved in order to secure their portion of the Chinese search market. Most surveys show that Google is losing out heavily to Beijing-based rival baidu.com, who have over 60% of the Chinese online seach market.
Last year, Yahoo was accused of supplying data to China that was used as evidence to jail a Chinese journalist for 10 years.