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Google porn filter gained China's thumbs-up

Google's row over pornographic search results with the Chinese government ended in July

By Owen Fletcher, IDG News Service
September 07, 2009 12:40 AM ET

IDG News Service - China approved of Google's efforts to filter porn from search results on its China portal following state-led criticism of the links, the former head of Google China said Sunday.

The row with Beijing cooled down in July, after government censors met with Google and revoked a suspension of some features on its site, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Greater China for Google, wrote on a Chinese blog.

State-run media and a Chinese government watchdog in June slammed Google for allowing pornographic links to appear in search results on Google.cn, the company's China portal. China also briefly blocked nationwide access to Google.com and other Google Web sites and ordered the company to suspend "foreign Web site search services" until the links were removed.

Google changed its search algorithm to filter pornographic results, but it had remained unclear if censors were satisfied. Lee said multiple heads of government bureaus revoked the suspension and praised Google for having a "serious attitude" toward fighting low-brow content.

Lee, who left Google last week, said his move was unrelated to the government row and that he stayed at Google two months longer than he originally planned to handle the affair. Lee will be starting a venture in Beijing that provides angel investment and guidance for young local entrepreneurs, he said on the blog.

Google.cn has long filtered out some results for sensitive searches. The search engine displays a notice that some results have been filtered for search terms such as "Tiananmen," the square in Beijing around which soldiers killed hundreds to disperse a student democracy protest in 1989, or for the names of major political leaders. The search engine currently displays no search results at all for "Xu Zhiyong," the name of a human rights lawyer recently detained for about one month. The results screen says the search "may touch on content that does not conform with the related laws, regulations and policies" and that results cannot be displayed.

A Google spokeswoman asked for comment about the search filtering last month said Google, as a global company, "should strictly comply with local laws, regulations and policies."

Baidu, the dominant Chinese search company and Google's main rival in the country, also filters search results and tells users it has done so for sensitive searches.

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