You eat a drumstick and your brain stops tickin'
February 5, 2010 1:41 AM   Subscribe

"Google said it would stop censoring its search results in China – a move it has yet to take as it continues discussions with Chinese officials about how it can continue to operate in the country." Is this true?

Given the fanfare, and not just here on Metafilter, what gives? Is this true or just lazy reporting?

As per the posting rules I've tried looking for answers, but there's too much noise out there.
posted by uncanny hengeman to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what the question is.

"would stop" is an intentional indefinite phrasing; it gives Google wiggle room to do this at some undefined poin in the future. Nothing in their statement can be construed to mean that action is immediately coming. This is likely why their press releases were written in this manner.

If I'm not understanding your question, apologies.
posted by dfriedman at 1:58 AM on February 5, 2010

Maybe you answered my question, dfriedman? If you look at my "not just here" link above, dozens of MeFites were applauding Google's gutsy move. I fell for it.

I just find it hard to believe it was all bullshit and it's business as usual. I was just checking that I didn't miss something or the article was glossing over a complex situation.

Google has done absolutely Jack Shit in terms of its threats? Is this true?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:14 AM on February 5, 2010

Yes, it's true they said they would stop censoring in response to what is called Operation Aurora. They did for several days before returning to censored search results. They are in talks with China officials. The US government (since Google is headquartered in the US) has been involved. It's been in the news a lot.
posted by Houstonian at 3:26 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

The original Google Blog post says:
"We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all."
That doesn't sound to me like they were intending to immediately and/or unilaterally stop censoring results... It sounds like they wanted to have discussions with the Chinese government to see whether they could legally do so, or perhaps whether they could pressure the Chinese government into changing said laws. (Neither of which seems likely to happen, in my opinion.)
posted by Nothlit at 5:50 AM on February 5, 2010

a couple of days after the announcement was made i had dinner with several friends that work at google . most of them believed it was purely a pr move. it allows google to look like humanitarians if/when they pull out of a market they are doing poorly in.
posted by phil at 6:23 AM on February 5, 2010

I don't know if Google has done much or not, but I do know that the US media is full of stories from the past couple of days which claim that the US' main spy agency, the National Security Agency, has been working with Google to secures its (Google's) networks.

Here's a google search (insert irony here) of these news stories:
posted by dfriedman at 7:10 AM on February 5, 2010

Just did a search for "Tiananmen Square" on both and .cn from here in Beijing. The latter returns no results concerning the events of '89 on the first few pages, unlike the international English version, and still includes the disclaimer "据当地法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。" ('In line with the prevailing laws, regulations and policies, a portion of the results of this search have not been displayed'). So it appears that they've not taken that step yet, as others above have noted.
posted by Abiezer at 8:02 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nothlit is right; the article you quote is accurate. Google made no changes after their announcement, preferring to work with Chinese authorities in vague hopes of some kind of alternative resolution short of Google pulling out. I heard a Google PR person on NPR say exactly that in the week after the news hit. It doesn't look good, but who knows what's going on behind closed doors?

Here's an article from last week:

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt told analysts last week that the company planned to make changes in China in "a reasonably short time" while raising hope for a compromise. "We made a strong decision that we wish to remain in China," Schmidt said. "We like the business opportunities there. We'd like to do that on somewhat different terms than we have."

...Even if is shut down, Google wants to keep its Beijing development center and sales offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, according to a person familiar with its thinking. But that won't happen if management believes its decision to stop censoring search results will jeopardize employees in China, according to this person, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

And another: Google's top lawyer says the global search giant's dispute with China over Internet censorship will probably be resolved in weeks, but it could take months.
posted by mediareport at 4:49 PM on February 5, 2010

And here's the Jan 14th NPR story where Google's chief legal officer clearly says they haven't done anything to lift the filters imposed by the Chinese government:

Melissa Block: ...Have you actually lifted the filters that you've had on your search engine?

Mr. DRUMMOND: No, we haven't done that yet. What we've said is that going forward, we're going to end that practice. We have asked the government to start some discussions with us about how we can operate an unfiltered search engine in China and failing that, we will have to shut it down, but - or do something else. But as of right now, it's sort of operating as we were until we talk to the government.

BLOCK: Well, it seemed like you got rebuffed from the Chinese government today. They said foreign Internet companies have to follow the law. They didn't seem to be offering any concessions on your demands. So, how does Google respond to that?

Mr. DRUMMOND: Well, we hope that there will be some more conversations. We understand that was an initial response and, you know, at the end of the day, if it's their view that an uncensored search engine - you know, that we can't do that in China, then we will have to do something different, could be shutting the site down.

Even in the thick of the publicity, Google was saying it "could be" shutting its China search engine while vaguely hoping for "more conversations." Me, I don't see what's in it for the repressive Chinese leaders, but again, who knows what's going on behind the scenes?
posted by mediareport at 4:55 PM on February 5, 2010

Thankyou all. I won't "best answer" any coz they were all good.

The original Google Blog post [...] doesn't sound to me like they were intending to immediately and/or unilaterally stop censoring results.

I beg to differ. It's only when you go back and re read the statement you can see how craftily it was worded. A lot of people were fooled in that thread, myself included.

Or to put it another way, how many people called it immediately? How many people said "hey check out how they've worded it, Google ain't going to stop filtering results"?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:45 PM on February 5, 2010

Pretty much everyone I know did. Probably has something to do with how and where you first heard the news, but it was pretty obvious from the first round of reports that Google had said "We will be ending the filtering sometime in the future."
posted by mediareport at 9:38 PM on February 5, 2010

Pretty much everyone I know did.

I feel like a chump.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:01 PM on February 5, 2010

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