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Google takes grief for China policy

Netco search engine censored by gov't

Google became the latest netco to run up against the Great Firewall of China when it agreed to censor its Chinese search engine to secure greater access to the world’s fastest growing major market.

Human rights orgs accused Google of kowtowing to the world’s most stringent Internet censor, the Chinese government, and said the decision made a mockery of its corporate mantra, “Don’t be evil.”

The new engine for China, Google.cn, bowed Wednesday and will restrict access to thousands of politically sensitive terms and Web sites and make searching for information on controversial topics like Tibet, Taiwanese independence and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre even harder.

There are 111 million Internet users in China, and the number is rising swiftly, prompting a campaign by the Chinese government to keep a beady eye on the booming sector.

Google argues it can play a more useful role by being in China rather than by boycotting it.

“While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission,” the Mountain View, California-based company said in a statement.

Alison Reynolds of the Free Tibet Campaign said Google was endorsing censorship and repression, while press freedom org Reporters Without Borders described the launch of Google.cn as “a black day for freedom of expression in China.”

Google’s move in China comes less than a week after it resisted efforts by the U.S. Dept. of Justice to make it disclose data on what people were searching for.

China keeps a tight rein on the Internet and what users can access. Roughly 40,000 civil servants routinely monitor email and Web sites in the world’s most populous nation.

Last year, Google’s rival Yahoo! was accused of supplying data to China that was used as evidence to jail a Chinese journalist for 10 years.

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