Inevitably there’s been lots of discussion on message boards and blogs about what search results are being returned through Google following the firm’s decision to stop complying with China’s censorship rules by offering unfiltered searches through Hong Kong.
Different people have been posting differing experiences, although it seems the consensus is that many links to sites blocked in China are now being blocked even with the changed system.
Meanwhile, the government has gone into overdrive through the state media attacking Google for its supposed sins. But is it ultimately going to be shooting itself in the foot? Internet users in China may or may not have any affection for Google specifically, but how long before they start asking themselves which sites are next?
Google has a simple page that displays service availability on the mainland, and for the past few days Youtube and Blogger have been completely blocked. It’s possible users in China will be happy to make the switch to the already much more popular Baidu for search results. But are they going to be happy when other sites fall victim to this kind of censorship?
On the issue of censorship, self-censorship in this case, China Digital Times has an excellent piece on the so-called Ministry of Truth. There are a number of official bodies responsible for controlling the Internet and media, with the Central Propaganda Department at the top of the tree.
Among these monitoring bodies is the State Council Information Office, which has tasked a sub-bureau with issuing daily advice/instructions to large news sites. It makes for fascinating reading. According to a translation on the site, the following were among the instructions issued for March 23:
‘1, On the Neijiang-Suining (内江—遂宁) Highway construction site, a truck ran over and killed villagers. No reporting.
2, Some editors from Science Fiction World Magazine (《科幻世界》) published a public letter online. No reporting.
3. Google.cn switched its services from inland to Hong Kong, only use Xinhua general text, don’t play it up.’