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    China Business
     Feb 3, 2006
The lesser of two Googles

HONG KONG - Bloggers and technology experts are slamming US-based Google's decision to censor keywords rejected by Beijing in its Chinese version - with some vowing to work around China's ever more efficient campaign to control what its own people see and hear online.

Chinese bloggers greeted Google's decision with a mixture of cynicism and anger. "It is shameful that Google, Yahoo, MSN, and others are collaborating with a repressive regime in China -



much in the same way that some firms did with Nazi Germany decades ago," wrote one commentator on a blog based in the central Chinese city of Changsha. "History will send those collaborators to court and, I hope, very soon," said the commentator, identified as Erping Zhang.

Google sparks debate
"While Google hasn't made public the contents of the censored search results, we can guess that they are probably related to anti-government movements, or to sex," wrote blogger Feiyang1024 on Microsoft's MSN Spaces. "It is natural that Google would set such limits in a Chinese environment."

Another commentator said Google was simply following the lead of many other Western Internet companies. "Western companies always change their initial stance when they get to China," said the commentator, identified as Watson. "Cisco is actually much worse than Google."

Commentator Danny O'Brien, writing on the Electronic Freedom Foundation website, called on Google to use its foothold in the Chinese market to protect Chinese citizens. "Google stood up to the US government when it asked for their records, but what threats - to their business, and to their employees - might China make to obtain similar information?" O'Brien said. "Google should take this as the moment to reform its data retention practices."

Anti-censorship tool promised
Tech-savvy bloggers rushed to try out Google.cn, the default version of Google for users in China. They quickly found that those requesting the overseas version would have access to it, but that they would have to know about it in advance. They also discovered that misspelled "bad words" yielded uncensored results.

Meanwhile, California-based Web privacy specialist Anonymizer said it was working on an anti-censorship solution aimed specifically at Chinese Web users.

"Anonymizer's new anti-censorship solution for Chinese citizens will be available before quarter's end," the company said on Wednesday. "The solution will provide a regularly changing URL that users can access to open the doors to unfettered access of the World Wide Web." Users' identities would also be protected from online tracking and monitoring by the Chinese government, it said.

"Anonymizer is not willing to sit idly by while the freedom of the Internet is slowly crushed," Anonymizer president Lance Cottrell said in a statement. "We take pride in the fact that our online privacy and security solutions provide access to global information for those under the thumb of repressive regimes."

'Lesser of two evils'
Rather than relying on China's sophisticated monitoring system to plug holes in the Great Firewall, Google's new Chinese-language search engine carries out its own keyword, domain-name, and URL filtering according to a list of words forbidden by Beijing.

Online tech experts have already carried out multiple comparisons of Google's overseas Chinese-language search results and the new, Beijing-approved service at Google.cn. They found that while some filtering is done using forbidden keywords, in some cases entire websites are removed from search results.

Banned websites include overseas news media such as Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corp, and sites run by followers of the banned Falungong spiritual movement. Human-rights sites and images of the 1989 bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement are also blocked.

Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt defended the company's decision. "We concluded that although we weren't wild about the restrictions, it was even worse to not try to serve those users at all," Schmidt told attendees at a recent technology seminar at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"We actually did an evil scale and decided [that] not to serve at all was worse evil," he said, referring to the company's famous "don't be evil" creed.

(Copyright 2006 Radio Free Asia. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia .)


Google maps China strategy (Oct 8, '05)

Google losing ground to Baidu
(Sep 16, '05)

Propagandists vs the Internet in China (Dec 15, '04)

A blogger's tale: The Stainless Steel Mouse (Jul 22, '04)

Will China be Google's crown jewel? (Feb 18, '04)

The business of stifling the Internet
(Jan 31, '04)

 
 



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