Google sends China users to Hong Kong for uncensored results

Google logoGoogle has officially stopped censoring search results in China, but in a somewhat roundabout way. Google.cn no longer works as a search portal—instead, visitors are being directed to Google's service based out of Hong Kong, where taboo topics are not regulated by the Chinese government.

Google's page reads (translated) "Welcome to Google Search in China's new home." It seems pretty clear that Google is happy with shutting down its China-based domain in favor of Hong Kong. It's also highly likely that Chinese officials will scramble to block uncensored results from Google.com.hk via its Great Firewall. Google says that it's currently monitoring "access issues," and that it has set up an App Status Dashboard to show what's currently accessible in mainland China and what's not.

(As of publication, search results for the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests seem to be accessible in Beijing, according to WebsitePulse's Great Firewall tool.)

"Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard," Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote in a blog post. "We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services."

Drummond also indicated that Google does plan to continue some of its operations in China, though obviously not through the search arm. The company plans to carry on with research and development work in the mainland and maintain a sales presence there. The size of these teams will rely on how well citizens can access Google.com.hk, however—in a way, it will be up to China as to whether the company really sticks around.

At this point, Google is walking the walk after talking the talk. After a highly publicized hack in January that many believe to have been directed by China's government, the company said flat out that it would stop censoring search results and possibly pull out of China. China's reaction to the decision to redirect search traffic certainly won't be pretty, but Google knew what it was getting into when it threw down the gauntlet three months ago.

The initial reaction from outside of China has been positive. "The Center for Democracy & Technology applauds Google for following through on its commitment to protect human rights and for its continued effort to enable China's people with unfiltered access to robust sources of information from all over the world," Center for Democracy and Technology president and CEO Leslie Harris said in an e-mailed statement. "Whether the Chinese people will be able to take advantage of Google search now rests squarely with the Chinese government."

Source: ars technica

Tags: China, Google, Internet

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