This would be Google’s first .cn site accepting user registrations... except that the site is using Tianya’s ICP – the Internet Content Provider number is a badge handed out by the Chinese government to mark self-censorship conformant, legally operating .cn sites – and you will not be able to use a Google account for Wenda. Still, Googlified, citing the Chinese DoNews, says that Google acquired 60% of Tianya (I’m waiting for Google press support’s confirmation on this [Update: Still no confirmation on this, but I’m told that DoNews isn’t a very reliable source, lowering the chances some more that the 60% acquisition bit will turn out to be true.]). Furthermore, Googlified says that Wenda is running on Google’s servers.
In other, related news Tianya.cn was recently involved in an attempt by the Chinese government to suppress the reporting on a bridge collapse in Fenghuang a week ago. Quote the Associated Press last Friday:
Communist authorities have banned most state media from reporting on the deadly collapse of a bridge in southern China, with local officials punching and chasing reporters from the scene, reporters said Friday.
The harassment and the accompanying news ban was issued by the Chinese Central Propaganda Department on Thursday, the AP writes. The AP cites a reporter saying that an unidentified mob of locals “roughed up” a group of five reporters who were interviewing the families of those who were killed in the bridge collapse. The AP continues:
“The local government does not want the media to uncover the collapse,” said Li Datong, a veteran newspaperman forced from a top editing job two years ago for running reports that angered authorities. (...)
Accounts of reporters being beaten by local thugs have increased, with one reporter even being beaten to death early this year. (...)
In a further sign of how the government was trying to control reporting from Fenghuang, an account of the reporters’ harassment posted on a popular Internet forum http://www.tianya.cn Friday morning was removed several hours later, the reporter said.
Quick censorship of factual reports is one of the ways to keep your ICP license in China. At this time, ICP holder Google China agreed to self-censor web search results, satellite imagery, book scans, as well as Google News (as Google isn’t transparent about exactly how they work with the Chinese government, the precise scope and methodology of the removals are hard to measure). Google stated they believe this compromise is necessary to successfully expand in China, arguing it’s “the best way to work toward the results we all desire.”
Update: Another Google-powered Tianya.cn site went live today at laiba.tianya.cn (codename “Google Fensi”), with “Lai ba” meaning “Come here”. Does any Chinese-speaking reader know what this is? It looks like a social network/ discussion board. Even Google China’s boss Lee Kai-Fu has a public profile on the site (according to its information, he was born December 3 and is 45 years old).
I asked Google, “Did you acquire 60% of Chinese Tianya?”. Here’s their answer:
The announcement we made today in China with Tianya was the launch of Tianya Laiba and Tianya Wenda. These are Tianya services powered by Google technology. Tianya Laiba is an online community where people can connect with friends and share content. Tianya Wenda is an online service that allows people to ask questions and receive answers from others.
I can confirm that Google has made an investment in Tianya, but we don’t have any additional details to share.
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