China Adds Search Engines To Its Censorship-By-Guilt Plan; How Will Google Respond?

China Adds Search Engines To Its Censorship-By-Guilt Plan; How Will Google Respond?

Feed: Techdirt
Posted on: Monday, January 05, 2009 6:39 PM
Author: Michael Masnick
Subject: China Adds Search Engines To Its Censorship-By-Guilt Plan; How Will Google Respond?

It's well known that the Great Firewall censorship brigade in China employs tens of thousands of people monitoring what's said across the internet — but perhaps far more effective has been the fear factor imposed on various ISPs by the government threatening them with punishment, if they don't ban unacceptable content. Of course, the government doesn't define what exactly is unacceptable, leading the ISPs to over-ban in order to protect themselves. Mostly, this effort has focused on internet access providers, but it looks like the government is now expanding it to search engines as well, after the government publicly named and shamed both Google and Baidu for failing to prevent access to "undesirable" content such as pornography.

This may prove to be an interesting test for Google, which was widely criticized for its original move into China, whereby it agreed to block content as designated by the Chinese government — while alerting users to the fact that the content is blocked. That was Google's way of striking a compromise, while trying to call attention to the censorship (perhaps in the hope that it would eventually cause the policy to be changed). However, if Google is now getting pressure to be more proactive in determining what's "unacceptable," rather than just blocking specific content designated by the government, things could get a lot trickier for Google. Of course, some might point out that this was the slippery slope that Google put itself on when it first made the deal to get into China.

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