Google warning users in China of censor-prone searches

June 1, 2012

Google is now letting search users in mainland China know when search terms they’ve entered are likely to break their connection to the company’s servers. Apparently, the Great Firewall doesn’t like queries containing characters like (river) and (week), which are frequently used in Chinese surnames. Searches containing the unsanctioned characters have been shown to generate error messages like “this webpage is not available” and “the connection was reset,” at which point users become unable to connect to Google for a minute or so (video below). To let people know that certain searches could potentially break their connection to Google, the company is now generating dialog boxes under the search bar to warn users against pressing on with troublesome queries.

Following Google’s 2010 refusal to continue censoring Chinese searches, google.cn is now a landing page linking to google.hk — a Hong Kong-based search engine that provides uncensored Chinese language search results. Actually getting those results to users in the mainland is another matter, however, since incoming traffic has to pass through the country’s infamous content filter, and now Google is explicitly letting users know which searches are likely to be censored. You can practically hear the company's engineers sighing at the end of the new warnings, which read “this interruption is outside Google’s control.”

This article was originally published on theverge.com - Google warning users in China of censor-prone searches

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