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Google Censorship China Your Rights Online

Google Highlights Censored Search Terms In China 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the websearch-sunlight-project dept.
itwbennett writes "Responding to complaints from Chinese Googlers that the search engine is 'inconsistent and unreliable,' Google has updated its service to help users steer clear of search queries that will result in page errors. Google will now highlight characters and phrases that are likely to 'break' a user's connection. 'By prompting people to revise their queries, we hope to reduce these disruptions and improve our user experience from mainland China,' the company said in a blog post."
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Google Highlights Censored Search Terms In China

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  • Hidden censorship is worse than obvious censorship. Shame on Google for hiding China's shame.

    • by Quakeulf (2650167)
      Fuck governments who censor the internet. That's all.
    • by plover (150551) *

      I'm still trying to work out if Google is not being American evil, not being Chinese evil, being completely evil, or not being evil at all in all of this.

      • don't forget, goog is an AD AGENCY.

        remember bewitched (the 60's sitcom)? darren was an ad-man. the precursor of what google is, today, essentially.

        you think an advertising agency can be anything BUT evil?

        come on. get real. I know they give shiny things out, but you have to always remember what their mission in life is. TO SELL THINGS (on behalf of others).

        if you keep it in perspective, you never again confuse google with some benevolent organization.

        like things in the modern world, when someone tries t

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:01PM (#40180959)
          Oh God! A company having the audacity to tell you about things you might want to buy?! Truly, they are the most evil people to have ever walked the face of this good Earth.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            You forgot to toss in a couple "U R TEH PRODUCT NOT TEH CUSTMERZ!!!1!!1!LAWL"s in there just for good measure and increased fearmogering.

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          >>>google is simply a company. companies are never there for your benefit. never.

          I agree with the first sentence, because companies should not be worshipped like football teams. They are inaminate entities and nothing more. But disagree with the second. Companies ARE there to serve the customer and keep him/her happy, because it they don't they end-up like Montgomery Wards or Circuit Shitty (bankrupt).

          I visited Wards during its final selloff. The employees there looked extremely depressed, and

          • by Anonymous Coward

            So far Google has been winning the votes, while other ad agencies like Youtube struggle to survive.

            Head asplode.

          • companies are never there for your benefit. never.

            Yes they are. I invest in companies, companies pay my salary, pay taxes, invest in research that improves lives. My retirement fund is filled with companies working on maximizing profit and I don't mind any of that, because it will make my retirement better.

            Companies make things and provide services that I pay money for, because if I were to make those things or do those services, they are more expensive and not done as well.

            WHAT I don't like is when compani

            • Walmart used to be a decent company. Now, it is nothing more than a machine that forces crappier and crappier products and services upon the unsuspecting and uncaring people.

              Dude, I'm pretty sure that's specifically Walmart's business model - cheap for cheap.

            • People only see the prices for goods and services, and rarely think about the real costs.
        • by dwye (1127395)

          No, Google is a magazine publishing a new edition every time you hit Search. The are paid by the ad agencies every time they place one in front of you, then more if you click on it, etc., whereas Time only gets paid for the column-inch of ads.

          Seriously, telling users (who aren't customers, after all) what terms to avoid is about as far as Google can go, until they acquire their own nuclear arsenal and demonstrate a willingness to use it. The PRC is doing the censorship, not Google.

      • by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:27PM (#40181265)

        I would think that giving people interactive hints that can be used to work around censorship is generally 'not evil'. More evil than taking a stand and ignoring the Chinese government until they're completely blocked and replaced wholesale with a Chinese government controlled search engine? Perhaps, perhaps not.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hw are they hiding it? They're blatantly pointing out that users shouldn't use terms least they be disconnected or run into censorship, even for common things that they might not have thought of before. Now youll probably get a warning for something when you weren't even remotely looking for something subversive.

    • by Zebai (979227)

      I could of sworn I remember seeing an article that google was no longer censoring in china, did they go back on that while I wasn't looking?

      • Re:Hidden censorship (Score:5, Informative)

        by jonnythan (79727) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:16PM (#40181129) Homepage

        It's not Google doing the censoring. Apparently China interferes somehow with connections that are caught searching for various terms. Google now highlights certain words and pops up a notice that it has observed these words may break your connection.

      • Re:Hidden censorship (Score:5, Informative)

        by squiggleslash (241428) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:17PM (#40181139) Homepage Journal

        From TFS:

        Responding to complaints from Chinese Googlers that the search engine is 'inconsistent and unreliable,' Google has updated its service to help users steer clear of search queries that will result in page errors. Google will now highlight characters and phrases that are likely to 'break' a user's connection.

        My reading of that is that Google is being censored, not that Google is censoring as otherwise not a word in it makes sense.

        If Google were censoring, then the search engine would work normally, it's just certain search results would not appear. So a search for "Tienanmen Square Massacre" would come up with pages of results of, say, Fred Tienanmen's blog entry where he massacres those proposing that squares have the same sized sides, but would be absent anything about some funny business that occurred in China during the 1980s.

        That's not what's happening though. What TFS is saying is that users are suffering random page errors, that the engine feels "inconsistent and unreliable". That's consistent with a third party, say, perhaps, the Great Firewall of China, interrupting page downloads as they happen because they have naughty words on them.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:53AM (#40180887) Journal

      Hidden censorship is worse than obvious censorship. Shame on Google for hiding China's shame.

      I don't understand this logic at all. From the summary:

      Google will now highlight characters and phrases that are likely to 'break' a user's connection.

      Uh so it looks like Google is calling attention to China's censorship and giving users a nod ahead of time that their search is going to be censored. This is far from "hiding" anything and, conversely, lets the user know about the censorship. The other good thing this does is that if I'm interested in censored terms and my IP hits the great firewall with these censored terms, the government might build a dossier on my entire histories to see what else I'm interested in and have dirt on me if they need it. But if Google is warning me ahead of time, this never hits the firewall and China doesn't get to profile their citizens based on search queries. Google will enable you, if you so choose, to appear to keep your nose clean.

      • yeah, exactly. they are enabling the corrupt government and helping them play their stupid control games.

        sure, they help you avoid the chinese knowing what you are searching for. but you still can't search for it! they say 'no no, you may want to avoid thinking about this or that concept, citizen!'.

        this enables the chinese government. it supports it!

        if they had any balls, they'd just get out of china entirely. their half-assed 'freedom' is bullshit when they put it thru a sieve. but china means MONEY

        • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:22PM (#40181221) Homepage

          Google is empowering the Chinese citizen with knowledge that he/she is actively being censored. Previously, it was all mysterious rumors. I mean, they know there's censorship, but without defined boundaries. That aspect of being unknown invokes fear. Fear is control. What Google is doing is providing solidification to that fact. As I've said earlier, this will backfire can cause Google to be kicked out.

          The Chinese government is a lot like that mysterious "Architect" in the movie The Matrix. They want to control without being the source of instability. By making censorship an actively known issue, they've become a major fly in the ointment. The government will not have this. I guarantee!

        • by oakgrove (845019) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:31PM (#40181323)

          sure, they help you avoid the chinese knowing what you are searching for. but you still can't search for it!

          Why do people run their mouths when they have no idea what they are talking about? As can be plainly seen in this screenshot [blogcdn.com], it is quite clear that you can search for it by simply clicking the "search anyway" link. Google is just being helpful and letting you know that you are probably going to not be able to get much of a response and it is out of their control.

        • by Lithdren (605362) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:07PM (#40181793)
          I dont think you're understanding whats happening here at all.

          Google is not removing results from their search. A user comes along and searches for "Human Rights Abuses in Tibet" for example. If I run the search I get about 4.5 million hits (my lord, 4.5 million hits on that? Anyway...) because i'm in the US.

          If I were in china, i'd get a 404 page not found error, or some other weird obsure error page.

          Whats happening is someone between me and Google is intercepting the search query, deciding on some filter if what im searching for is appropriate based on some unknown list of "not to be known" subjects, and if my searches dont pass the test I dont get the results back. Peoplere were complaining to Google because it seemed like it was Google's fault.

          So Google is now going to turn around and say "Hey, you, user. Yeah you! Just wanna let you know, searching for that has resulted in people not getting results."

          So, yeah, way to jump on the "OMG GOOGLE IS EVIL EVIL EVIL EVIL AND IM SMART FOR POINTING IT OUT HAHAHAHAHAHA" bandwagon. Your bias is showing.
        • by Lisias (447563)

          this enables the chinese government. it supports it!

          So by pinpoint someone's mischievousness before it happens, I'm empowering the mischief.

          Ok. (tongue in cheek)

          I'm dying to read what YOU think it should be done.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            He said it: stop the business in China altogether. That'll show 'em chinese oppressors, they'll suffer! Because chinese overlords really need Google, and it's not like there's any other search engines in China [baidu.com] where people will flock despite it being censored as well.

            Oh, I know, if Google's gonna not just talk the talk about not being evil, they should walk the walk, create a mercenary army and overthrow chinese government.

            (On a side note, $any_corporation_name + mercenary army capable of overthrowing gover

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        Uh so it looks like Google is calling attention to China's censorship and giving users a nod ahead of time that their search is going to be censored.

        Except they oh so carefully avoid any mention of the censorship or the cause for the connection breaking, instead implying that the search terms themselves are breaking the connection. They go out of their way to make this seem like a technical glitch rather than what it is, so I'd say they're very much not calling attention to censorship.

        • by tbannist (230135)

          If Google mentioned that it was due to China censoring the internet, China would censor the explanation.

        • you are blaming google for what china is doing, and you are not giving google any credit for being subtle, perhaps because you are a person who doesn't understand anything subtle

          china is going to censor the web. with google or without google

          now anyone with an iq over 50 can tell why their connection is breaking: it's not google, it's china being a censor

          they didn't carefully avoid anything, they didn't say "china is censoring us" because then china would cut off google

          do you understand now?

          • by Guspaz (556486)

            I understand perfectly fine, what you've misunderstood is my point. I'm not arguing that Google is doing something wrong here, but that eldavojohn's assertion that Google is calling attention to censorship and all that is false. Google is just trying to provide their users with a better user experience.

        • Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.
        • by macshit (157376)

          You're being way too literal.

          Google is doing the clever thing by using very carefully worded language which makes it abundantly clear what's going on to anybody with any clue at all (and Chinese net users certainly have a clue about this sort of thing), without stating so explicitly.

          If they did as you suggest, and explicitly mentioned censorship, they'd immediately get stomped on by the Chinese government.

    • by _0x783czar (2516522) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:55AM (#40180905) Homepage Journal
      Google is not hiding, nor aiding China's censorship. In a way... Google is actually "highlighting" China's censorship. Google is a company that wants to keep its customers. It's customers think that Google is to blame for what they can't find (at least from what I understand about the article) and so Google is trying to make it clear that certain things they look for will not work, since their Government doesn't trust them. To those who grasp this concept, every time a word they type in the query box gets highlighted its like Google saying "sorry, your Government doesn't want you to know about that". Whether Google has any other motive than just making it clear that they are not to blame for failed searches or not, the result in the minds of the observant is still worth noting.
    • Hidden censorship is worse than obvious censorship. Shame on Google for hiding China's shame.
       

      How is drawing specific attention to the things that invoke Chinese government censorship supposed to be hiding the censorship?

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:02PM (#40180971)

      Google helpfully telling the Chinese people, "Hey, this search term won't work, maybe you should try another *wink wink*". That should make it easier to to bypass China's filters.

    • I actually find it fairly subversive of Google to post the terms that the Chinese government has ordered banned. "Hey guys, here's what the government DON'T want you to know about. Have fun!".
    • I don't think you have followed this issue. Google initially followed some of China's requests but then stopped, closed up shop in China and redirected requests to its HK site that is not censored.. Now the Chinese government is using it's firewall to block (censor) google searches to that site. Google is not censoring at all. And the government of China is making google look unreliable to it's customers who are seeing disconnects.
    • by P-niiice (1703362)
      Highlighting the "offending" words is what I'd call the opposite of hiden censorship.
  • by shoppa (464619) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:54AM (#40180891)
    During prohibition in the US, stills could be owned and sold, just not used to produce alcoholic beverages. There were still legitimate purposes for stills, e.g. malt extract for baking.

    The manufactures helped out, by giving very explicit instructions on exactly what NOT TO DO, because if you followed all the steps, you'd end up with whiskey. And you wouldn't want to do that.
  • by johnjaydk (584895) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:54AM (#40180893)

    If You read TFA then You will see that this service actually HIGHLIGHTS the censorship process.

    IMHO that's doing the right thing.

    • by Millennium (2451)

      Yeah; I miss the old Google, and I'm glad to see a little of it shining through here. This should be encouraged.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Until the Chinese public rejects the idea that their exploitation is for the "common good" they'll continue to be a 2nd rate country.
    The moment the Chinese realize that they deserve the basic rights granted in western countries they'll become unstoppable. I don't care if they've got a thousands year old culture. It's wrong. Right now they simply don't value their own rights an freedoms and they'll remain oppressed if they don't want to help themselves.

    Of course, this also means violent bloody revolution, as

    • Which is funny because the governments of almost every 1st world country are trying their damnest to emulate China's level of control over their citizens.
  • Just China? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:59AM (#40180943)
    I'd like to see this feature rolled out in every country. There are very few countries that aren't busy censoring something; Whether it's the copywrongers or some anti-terror legislation, or the latest "Save the children" law, Google receives piles of censorship demands weekly from every government. We can't just say "Shame on China!" when everyone else is doing variations on the same theme.
    • Re:Just China? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:20PM (#40181181)

      In Germany you often get a little notice at the bottom of the results if something has been filtered because of our censorship laws (mostly fro-teh-children bullshit). It would be nice if it was more obvious and more specific though. At least they link to chillingeffects.org, where you can compare local search results to "global" search results.

  • Sort of like MS Office's Clippy assistant?

    What week is the river cleanup?

    "It looks like you're trying to do one of the following:
    • Overthrow the government with deviant thoughts
    • Get yourself imprisoned
    • Find out when the government is cleaning up the polluted river by your home so you know when to start fishing again.

    I suggest omitting the following words from your search: RIVER, WEEK, CLEANUP. Try 'What is the?' and you are sure to get better results from your query."

  • I applaud Google for this. But unfortunately Google might actually get banned for this. After all, they have Baidu to pick up the slack anyways (and they WILL roll over unlike Google). Google will be viewed as "inharmonious" to Chinese society. A harmonious society is an old Confucius concept that's been the new mantra of the PRC as of late. Which is ironic being that the Cultural Revolution's goal was to purge both Confucius and capitalistic ideology. But I digress.

    • by Millennium (2451)

      It's actually older than Confucius, including the bit about the state getting to define what is and is not "harmonious." Needless to say, it has been popular with the various rulers of China ever since.

  • Has anyone got any good articles, documentaries, or personal experiences about what ordinary Internet use is like in the PRC? Does filtering or censorship show up as a brick wall "COUNTERREVOLUTIONARY CONTENT FORBIDDEN", or a passive "sorry, no such content found"? How often does it affect ordinary daily browsing? If ordinary browsers are aware of it, do they generally develop a seething resentment of it, or a shrug-and-live-with-it accpetance (or resignation) like some western employees whose workplaces fi
    • by clodney (778910)

      I was in China last week, and tried to go to Facebook (which is a blocked site in China). I don't remember the specific error, but it was something along the lines of "server not responding". It didn't tell me it was blocked or chide me for looking or anything like that.

      That reminded me that I was behind the great firewall, so I didn't go looking for any other questionable content, and I was unaware of anything else getting blocked/filtered in the time I was there.

    • I live and work in China.
      The standard Great Firewall error is displayed as "Connection Reset" in Firefox.

      There are two (commonly known) sets of blocking. A lengthy list of domains that never work, and content scanning temporary blocks.
      The scanning works on both outgoing and incoming traffic, and once triggered for a domain will block that domain in its entirety for a given user/connection for between 5 and 30 minutes.

      In essence if you search for something using the key words then you get a connection reset

    • by spacehunt (6406)
      Whenever you do something the GFW doesn't like, it will inject TCP RST packets to kill your TCP session(s). They've been doing this for years.
  • by na1led (1030470) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:18PM (#40181157)
    A virus that infects thousands or computers could send out these key search words and take down an entire network.
    • Backfire for who? Google isn't the one causing problems with certain searches. And I get the impression it doesn't cause general network interruptions, only Google is blocked.

  • by InfiniteZero (587028) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:24PM (#40181247)

    Automatically redirect to the https version of Google. Problem solved.

    • by jittles (1613415)
      Except that the Chinese government probably would just require Google use their signed certificate in China. Then they can MITM Google's servers anyway.
  • link to test out yourself: https://www.google.com.hk/?esrch=SearchNotices::OptIn&q=%E9%95%BF%E6%B1%9F&hl=en [google.com.hk]

    Screenshot of Google banning the term Freedom of Speech: http://image.dude-suit.net/albums/userpics/10002/googlecensor.png [dude-suit.net]

    and it's google blocking it, since I'm in the states unlike their blog where they make it sound like it's china blocking before the search gets to them, which is untrue.

    • You have no idea what you're talking about.

      The search can still be performed, but it is China — NOT Google — that is doing the censoring by interfering with queries which contain offending terms.

      Before, if someone in mainland China performed a search containing an offending term, equipment that is part of the so-called "Great Firewall" would interfere with the search, making it appear that the search results page was unavailable or resetting the browser's connection, and then making Google unava

    • You can still do the search by hitting "Search Anyway". Anywhere other than mainland China, this search will work. Just try it. If you're in mainland China and you elect to search anyway, that will result in your connection being reset and will temporarily break your ability to interact with Google. It is China, not Google, that is doing this.

    • Wow, that "Search anyways" button is REALLY hard to find, I can see how hard that must be for you. The issue is that if you run that search from inside China, your access to Google gets blocked for around a minute. To try to help explain why to users, they pop that message up.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      and it's google blocking it, since I'm in the states unlike their blog where they make it sound like it's china blocking before the search gets to them, which is untrue.

      Uhm, what? Do you even read what you post and do you even read the fine summary? It clearly says "We've observed that searching for [] in mainland China may temporarily break your connection to Google. This interruption is outside Google's control. ... Search anywyas". You can click that "Search anyways" and get your results without any bans, blocks and network timeouts, given you're not in mainland China, where you'd presumably get connection dropped after trying to Search anyways.

    • and it's google blocking it, since I'm in the states unlike their blog where they make it sound like it's china blocking before the search gets to them, which is untrue.

      How about actually clicking "search anyway" when prompted with the popup? You'd see that it actually searched anyway and turned up the term in question.

      Probably because in the US there's no Chinese government sitting between you and the loading of your search results -- unlike in China.

  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Friday June 01, 2012 @12:46PM (#40181515)

    By google providing users with information about what is blocked they are enabled to more rapidly formulate queries which bypass censorship. The change is a win for all but oppressive control.

  • A lot of people are having trouble with this article because Google is having to do very Political things in this case.

    Google engineers know for damn sure why the connections are being reset. But if they say that explicitly, the Chinese government will rambunctiously cuddle them. Google has already had troubles in the past with the Chinese government. So, what google has done here is said, "Oh no, there's something out of our control. If you do this search then your connection will be reset."

    Note the usage

  • As an example:

    Go to http://www.google.com.hk/ [google.com.hk]
    and put in
    tiananmen square massacre

    It'll show those three words in red everywhere on the page.

  • By prompting people to revise their queries, we hope to reduce these disruptions and improve our user experience from mainland China,' the company said in a blog post.

    ZOMG the list of censored terms has to be bigger than War and Peace. Here's an idea, throw all of those terms at the great firewall and buffer overflow results (or something like that). Then the Chinese people can see what the nanny state has been hideing from them. Information IS power.

  • Google should tell China to go fuck itself. The owners and employees should be ashamed. They should realize that the free and open sharing of information, something they have enabled for years, was itself enabled by societies that value freedom of both the written and spoken word. Now they are just another evil coward corporation that can't stomach the thought of reduced profits even if it means kissing the ass of one of the most free speech repressing countries in the world.

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