Because of Chinese government restrictions on the information available to its citizens, access to Google’s main website ( has either been prevented altogether or has been very slow. Google’s new Chinese website,, will not suffer the same problems. However, this access comes at a price. In exchange for access to the Chinese market, Google has agreed to censor its search results on the .cn version of the search engine.

Google will simply ommit certain content that the Chinese government has deemed objectionable or sensitive, including information on Taiwanese independence and 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre.

Nart Villeneuve, an online expert on Internet censorship, has a very interesting post on how exactly the censorship works. In short, Google uses a blacklist of URLs and search terms, and removes results containing these terms from search results on

Ethan Zuckerman at Harvard’s Berkman Center has made some further comments about how how the fiiltering works:

Basically, it looks like two things are going on here: certain sites are simply so controversial, won’t offer links to them. inurl: searches reveal that pages exist, but results won’t let you see them, and site: searches give you the same result as if you searched for a nonexistent domain. (There’s a slight difference – search for a non-existent domain and you don’t get the message that certain results may be removed…)

Is Google’s decision to censor search results in China a violation of the central Google company philosophy, “don’t be evil“? Perhaps. However, while I am not in favor of censorship, I heard Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s senior policy counsel, on the radio (via podcast) convincingly defend the company’s approach. In short, the decision facing Google was either to agree to the Chinese government’s conditions, or not to enter China at all. Andrew makes similar comments on Google’s blog.

Launching is a business decision first and foremost, and it would be difficult to forego access to one of the world’s largest markets. And not entering China would also mean that users would have access to less information than they would otherwise — which would not have been good either.

Whatever its other motivations, Google’s concern for its Chinese users is obvious. The company has decided not to offer certain products, such as gmail, its email service, so that Google will not be in the position of refusing to give the Chinese government information about its users.

If you are interested in reading more on this subject, see the Berkman Center’s links to various postings and research on Internet filtering and censorship.