Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China

Ryan Gallagher, reporting earlier this month for The Intercept:

Documents seen by The Intercept, marked “Google confidential,” say that Google’s Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall. When a person carries out a search, banned websites will be removed from the first page of results, and a disclaimer will be displayed stating that “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements.” Examples cited in the documents of websites that will be subject to the censorship include those of British news broadcaster BBC and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

The search app will also “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, the documents state. The censorship will apply across the platform: Google’s image search, automatic spell check and suggested search features will incorporate the blacklists, meaning that they will not recommend people information or photographs the government has banned.

I’m going to take a contrarian view here — I’m not sure this is a bad or objectionable idea. How is a search engine that complies with China’s censorship laws any different than an app store that does? My only quibble is that the search results should state plainly whether the results have been censored — none of this “may have been removed” stuff.

Friday, 17 August 2018