Google is still censoring search content for some of its customers in China, a company spokeswoman said yesterday, in a decision that underscores the Internet giant’s delicate effort to hold on to its Chinese businesses days after moving its search engine offshore.
The decision to provide censored searches was made to honor contracts with current business partners and Google will continue to meet those commitments, said Jessica Powell, the firm’s Tokyo-based spokeswoman.
She said that all censoring done by Google in China would be phased out over a time period she would not specify.
“If there are cases where we were providing a censored search and were contractually required to provide censored search, then we will honor those requirements,” Powell said.
In a separate e-mail she said that over time Google would “not be offering syndicated censored search to any partners in China.”
She declined to name the customers, but Li Zhi, an analyst for Analysys International, a Beijing research firm, said Google was likely referring to search services on sites such as Sina, China’s most popular portal, and Tianya.com, a popular forum site.
Tianya.cn announced late yesterday that it would take over operation of two services developed and formerly operated with Google.
It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted Tianya.cn’s decision to take over the two sites.
One analyst said the portal may have come under pressure to distance itself from Google or perhaps it was a sign that Google itself had decided to break more of its ties to China.
Google’s search services remained erratic across Beijing yesterday, frustrating users unsure about the future of its other services — from maps to music.
Many of Google’s often well-educated, professional fan-base in China, who use its software for both work and play, said they were already suffering some fallout yesterday with erratic service.
Several of Google’s international search sites were failing to open, and when they could be accessed some users found that all searches, including for non-sensitive terms like “hello,” were returning blank pages or error messages.
Businesses, university students and people in private homes reported intermittent problems on the main Google.com site, the Google.co.uk site and Google.ca.
“Google.com.hk is not currently being blocked, although it seems that some sensitive terms are. However, if you search for a sensitive term and trigger a government blockage, that may affect subsequent searches ... for a short period,” Google said.
The People’s Daily yesterday accused the company of colluding with US spies, in China’s latest blast at the company.
“Google is not a virgin when it comes to values. Its cooperation and collusion with the US intelligence and security agencies is well-known,” a front-page commentary in the overseas edition of the paper said.
“All this makes one wonder. Thinking about the United States’ big efforts in recent years to engage in Internet war, perhaps this could be an exploratory pre-dawn battle,” it said.
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