Google has stopped
notifying users in China
that they may be
searching for censored
A Google feature that
warned users about
banned or sensitive
words was dropped after
a protracted battle with
Chinese authorities over
Google confirmed on Monday that it had turned off the
function, citing concerns over user experience.
Campaigners described Google’s decision to remove the
feature as “self-censorship”.
Cat and mouse
The instigation of the feature in May last year sparked a cat
and mouse game between the company and the Chinese
authorities. Within 24 hours of the launch of the feature,
technology known as the ” Great Firewall of China” was
blocking the function, according to campaign organisation
Google responded with countermeasures, but found that some
users were being completely blocked from search, a source
told the BBC.
Google scrubbed the search suggestion function in early
December, and has also removed “help” documentation that
explained how to use the feature, Greatfire.org said in a blog
Google began to offer suggestions about possible sensitive or
banned keywords in China at the end of May last year, after
complaints that its service was erratic. Google engineers
found that certain queries by users led to error messages or
For example, search on the Chinese character “jiang”, which
means “river”, but is also a common surname, was blocked
after erroneous rumours about the death of former president
Google has had a rocky relationship with the Chinese
authorities since January 2010, when the company said it may
shut down Chinese operations due to a “sophisticated and
targeted” cyber attack. Google said at the time that it was no
longer willing to censor its Chinese search engine.
The company began to redirect search queries from mainland
China to its Hong Kong website
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