Google Blogoscoped

Friday, January 23, 2009

Google China Stopped Censoring BBC

When you use the “site” operator in a Google web search, you can estimate roughly how many pages Google indexed from a given domain. Entering into Google China for a long time returned 0 results, along with a self-censorship notice by Google. Now, I’m not sure since when, the same query shows a result count of over 3.2 million pages.

This does not mean stopped censoring all of BBC. For instance, doing a BBC site search along with the keywords “falun gong” will show pages, but also a self-censorship notice indicating that some pages are not shown due to local laws and regulations.

It’s worth noting that BBC also has a self-censored news outlet for China at (, launched in early 2006, alongside their uncensored Chinese news at ( I’m not sure what the current state of is, and whether the normal is now visible from China (it’s visible in Google results now, but that does not mean users can successfully click through to the content; I’m also not sure how well the cache works, as I’m currently getting time outs when trying).

So why did Google stop the censorship of BBC news? Google keeps quiet about how they censor and other details on this subject. There could be several explanations: for instance, perhaps Google has received an updated domain blacklist from the Chinese government which does not list anymore, or perhaps they’re scanning sites in China to check if they’re censored, noticing that BBC is now accessible for Chinese visitors.

Not too long ago, the Human Rights Watch organization was uncensored in Google China as well. Other human rights organizations, like Human Rights in China (, are still being completely censored in One ex-Google employee, Doug Edwards, once said, “The limited group of [Chinese] people with whom I spoke preferred search engines that gave them the best way to find mp3s and movies online and handled Chinese names correctly, rather than those that gave the most complete information about Taiwanese efforts to remain independent.” Doug argued that, while “not attempting to trivialize the importance of censorship”, “the removal of a few news sites might go unnoticed for large segments of the population.”


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