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Google ends Chinese censorship

Google opens up Chinese search results

Google has unilaterally stopped censoring Chinese SERPs in a move that threatens its future in the country.

The search engine giant has started automatically redirecting all Google.cn visitors to a simplified Chinese version on its sister site Google.com.hk. This means that Google is no longer filtering results on Google Search, Google News and Google Images. But while Google has stopped participating in the censorship, users will still be blocked from accessing sensitive content by the Chinese government’s firewall.

One country, two systems

Google hopes that switching to Google.com.hk will allow it to continue operating a search service in the country. Whereas the .cn country-code top-level domain is operated by the Chinese government, .hk is administered by Hong Kong. Under the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, agreed when Britain withdrew from the territory in 1997, Hong Kong still enjoys a large degree of autonomy from Beijing.

David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer at Google, admitted that it had been “hard” to carry out Google’s promise to stop censoring Chinese search results. He explained: “We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced – it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China.”

However, the Chinese government has already condemned the move on state media service Xinhua. An unnamed official, who is in charge of the internet bureau under the State Council Information Office, said that Google had “violated its written promise” by ending censorship in the country. He added: “Foreign countries must abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they operate in China.”

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