Wednesday, January 25, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 24 -- Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing major market.
The company planned to roll out a new version of its search engine bearing China's Web suffix ".cn" on Wednesday. A Chinese-language version of Google's search engine has previously been available through the company's dot-com address in the United States.
Because of government barriers set up to suppress information, Google users in China have been blocked from using the search engine or encountered lengthy delays in response time. The troubles have frustrated many Chinese users, hobbling Google's efforts to expand its market share. China already has more than 100 million Web surfers, and the audience is expected to swell substantially.
To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit content that the country's government finds objectionable. Google will base its censorship decisions on guidance from Chinese government officials.
Google officials characterized the concessions as an excruciating decision but said they consider it a worthwhile sacrifice. "We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel.
Google's decision rankled Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog group that has sharply criticized Internet companies for submitting to China's censorship regime.
"This is a real shame," said Julien Pain, head of Reporters Without Borders' Internet desk. "When a search engine collaborates with the government like this, it makes it much easier for the Chinese government to control what is being said on the Internet."