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Still No Porn on Google in China

Posted on 24 March 2010 by SlimboCA

Google is still censoring pornographic search results for users in China, even though they are now being redirected to a search engine in Hong Kong that does not block sensitive political content.

As of Monday March 22, the United States-based Internet search giant started rerouting search requests from mainland China through its Hong Kong servers. Despite this rerouting, Chinese censors can still stop unwelcome content from reaching mainland computers. Chinese Web filters – collectively known as the Great Firewall – still automatically weed out pornographic or politically sensitive content before it reaches computers in China.

Though part of China, Hong Kong has a semi-autonomous status due to its history as a British colony, and Google is not legally required to censor results there. If Google’s ploy had worked, particularly given the company’s very public announcement of the plan, then Beijing’s only option would have been restricting Hong Kong’s freedom of information in the name of national security. But Google Inc. says it is still censoring search content for some of its customers in China.

A company spokesperson says the decision underscores the Internet giant’s delicate effort to hold onto its mainland businesses. The decision to provide censored searches was made to honor contracts with current business partners, and Google will continue to meet those commitments, says Jessica Powell, the company’s Tokyo-based spokesperson. She says that all censoring done by Google in China will be phased out in due time.

Meanwhile, top Chinese search engine Baidu Inc could see its sales rise by more than half if Google’s high-profile battle with Beijing escalates this year. Analysts say Baidu can win as much as half of Google China’s search revenue after it shut down its google.cn site and redirects users to its Hong Kong site. That could add as much as $330 million annually to Baidu’s top line, representing a more than 50 percent increase on 2009 revenue of 4.45 billion yuan ($645 million).

Google is also facing a mounting backlash from the Chinese media following its decision to shut down its Chinese search engine. The English-language China Daily accused Google of spreading pornography and subversive content, saying the Chinese web would “continue to grow in a cleaner and more peaceful environment” without google.cn. The Global Times reported that Google had made a “huge strategic misstep” by pulling out of the Chinese market of 380 million online users. The People’s Daily overseas edition accused Google of colluding with the US government security agencies and speculated whether the Google pullout wasn’t the first round in a new US-sponsored Internet war against China.

Foreign firms based in China say Google’s two-month confrontation with the authorities has only underscored the difficulties many multinational companies routinely face in maintaining relationships with local authorities. A survey released by the American Chamber of Commerce reveals that 38 percent of companies felt “unwelcome” in China, up from 26 percent last year. Inconsistent regulations and laws were cited as their biggest concern.

But with 400 million Internet users, China provides the world’s biggest Internet market, and most companies say local difficulties is a small price to pay to do business here.

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