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Google gives Chinese Internet users glimpse into censorship

(CPJ/IFEX) - June 5, 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Sophie Beach/CPJ Guest Blogger

In China, people know enough not to take to the streets to commemorate the brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Beijing is very quiet in the days before and after June 4. The Internet is a different story.

For all the talk about Great Firewalls, The Golden Shield Project, and other manifestations of online censorship, a significant section of China's Internet community is notorious for finding creative ways around the censors. Their efforts are an indicator of just how hard it is for the authorities to stay ahead of the masses when it comes to quelling popular anger.

Filtering search results on microblogs and search engines is one way the government controls access to information. Few but the most politically savvy Internet users in China realize what is happening when their search results turn up empty or cleansed. China-based search engines are required to clean up the search results of politically sensitive terms so that no undesirable links appear. When Google moved its Chinese search engine to Hong Kong to avoid censorship, it was no longer required to edit search results. However, since then, users have found that when they search sensitive terms, their Internet connection is cut for a minute or more after they get a generic error message.

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