Friday, June 19, 2009

Getting Google In Line

In a continuation of sorts from yesterday's "Building Walls," China is ramping up the pressure on Google and its "vulgar" searches.

From The Financial Times:

Image from

China has ordered Google to suspend part of its search operations on its local website, in a show of force which could disrupt the company’s growth in the country and underscores the political risks of operating in China.

State media said on Friday that the authorities had “punished” Google China for linking to pornographic content. On Thursday, in a “law enforcement talk”, the government announced that Google China would be punished with orders to suspend foreign webpage searches and automated keywords, Xinhua, the official news agency, and China Central Television, the main state broadcaster, said.

Google confirmed that it met with government representatives “to discuss problems with the service and its serving of pornographic images and content based on foreign language searches.” The company added that it was undertaking a thorough review of its service and said it believed it had addressed the large majority of the problem results.


The government has been clamping down on various internet sites for months in the name of a campaign against ‘vulgar’ online content. But on Thursday, the authorities took the unusual step of accusing only Google of allowing links to lurid content, although similar content was easily found through Baidu, its local rival which holds 59 per cent market share.

“If these restrictions are kept up for more than a few days, they will have a huge impact on Google’s business in China,” said Edward Yu, chief executive of Analysys, an internet research firm in Beijing.

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China's been acting funny recently. This latest push-back against Google coupled with the Green Dam self-censoring computer project has me worried about the direction the Chinese internet is going.

Today's Google episode seems to be coming out of thin air. The vulgar content charge is spurious at best. As the article pointed out, similar content to Google's came up on searches of Baidu, China's largest, home-grown search engine.

This dispute with Google is surely being viewed as an opportunity to both restrict the flow of information and berate of a foreign company. A win-win indeed!


Anonymous said...

I guess that argument someone made back on the comments about your post regarding your cheerleading of hanzi in urls is starting to make a lot of sense now. The Chinese internet is slowly turning into a glorified intranet. I, for one, hope that this is simply a lot of saber rattling that will pass once the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of Censorship has passed in October.

Mark said...

I definitely f'd up my initial take on that 。中国 news. I didn't see it for what it appears to have been: one of the steps towards making the Chinese internet an intranet.

The net nanny is incapable of being benevolent. This I now understand.

Ramesh said...

Something doesn't add up. The powers that be usually act maturely and responsible in most other fields. But when it comes to the internet, insanity is the only word that comes to mind. Perhaps the chief nanny is off her rockers.

Btw, watch out Mark - steer clear of the treatment the The Peking Duck got. Couch your criticism in stinging idioms - that way the nanny wouldn't understand.

pug ster said...

Why not? Google has to comply with the local laws or China can just censor them and let Baidu take over google's market's share.

Mark said...

I know what you mean on the judges of content on the internet, Ramesh. It's very disconcerting.

Honestly, I rewrote a couple of the sentences in this post last night to make them less biting/obvious. I'm trying to limit my direct criticisms or coach such things in complicated language. I definitely don't want to cross the line, whatever that line may be.

Although I think Peking Duck was/is in a different class from what I'm doing. The run-up to that one controversial date earlier this month from Richard was classic. I certainly don't have the cajones to do something like that.

Anonymous said...

For all the faults the US has, one thing I will never take for granted is the freedom to speak my mind and the free flow of information.

Think about this. There is a news channel (Fox) that does nothing but bash our President 24/7. In how many other countries around the world would the leaders allow this to go on? Not many. That right there is the perfect example to use for those who think US media = US government. Thats how it may work over there, but certainly not here.

Funny thing about the whole crackdown, I don't think giving the Chinese more freedoms is a threat to the state at all. I have had the opportunity to talk with many Chinese in settings where they could speak their minds freely and have found that a lot of them are quite happy with the way their country is run and the system, (aside from silly crap like having the internet censored). I also speak with many former Chinese citizens turned US citizens who can speak freely and most are still very patriotic and quick to defend their country's leadership and policies.

I think when a country tries to suppress information it ends up having the opposite effect of its intent and people start questioning what motivates it.