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.