As with other localized China sites, like Maps, Web, News or Books results, Google agreed to self-censor Google Video based on government regulations. Entering e.g. “mao” shows the italics message at the bottom which translates to “In accordance to local laws or regulations, some search results aren’t shown.” Which videos exactly are censored is hard to figure out, and Google has been tight-lipped about these issues in the past; earlier this month I asked Google what they censor in Google News, and they answered:
Google News includes articles from over 10,000 news sources in more than 18 languages worldwide. In order to create the best possible news search experience for our users, we have decided not to include sources that are inaccessible to users in mainland China. Although we do not have a list of those sources to share with you, these sources represent only a very tiny fraction of the sources available in simplified Chinese.
My impression was that “a very tiny fraction” in Google’s reply is a rather mathematical rationalization not expressing the real issue at hand; suppressed minority groups or publications are always that “tiny fraction” and have been throughout history in many oppressive regimes. And if Google cares about source diversity in Google News, as they previously stated they do*, then 1 publication telling the “non-government approved version” of a story seems to equal the value of 99 publications following the same “official version.” How many non-government approved publication still made it into Google News China, I don’t know.
In other news, Google also launched Google China Transit. Google China Code Search seems to be (relatively) new as well.
Plus, Google now also accepts user sign-ins for those accessing Google.cn. Before, this wasn’t possible, perhaps due to concerns over privacy issues in the context of Chinese government regulations. And now when you access Google.cn with English language settings from a foreign country, being logged out, you’ll be no longer redirected away to Google.com immediately. (Note since Google may use geolocation to show different content to IPs coming from within China, I’m not sure I’m seeing exactly what a user accessing Google.cn from China sees.)
Being logged in into Google now means you can permanently save your settings beyond a simple cookie. You can still not toggle all preferences in China, like SafeSearch. What it means for the privacy of users when the Chinese government requests data, I can’t tell from the outside, though when you log-in Google can associate your chosen log-in email address with your searches. However, you specifically do not need to provide your name when creating a Google Account.
*Quote Google: “Our goal has always been to offer users as many different perspectives on a story from as many different sources as possible, which is why we include thousands of sources from around the world in Google News. However, if many of those stories are actually the exact same article, it can end up burying those different perspectives.”
Update: Correction – I checked and can see the sign-in link on top in older Archive.org pages of Google.cn as well, so it doesn’t seem to be new.
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