Google has acknowledged that the Chinese government asked it to disable a search feature with the goal of censoring pornography, but it still won't say whether the government ordered tighter censorship around the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The New York Times reported Friday that Chinese government officials ordered Google to remove the search feature--known as Google Suggest--that displays related search terms based on the original query typed into the search bar or face unspecified punishment. Apparently some queries brought up related results with suggestive implications, leading to criticism from China's state-run media and government officials prior to Friday's move.
Google has long faced a difficult dilemma in China, reconciling the Chinese government's insistence that Internet companies censor their products with the company's desire to improve the world's access to information; not to mention the demands of shareholders for profits.
But despite acknowledging direct government intervention over pornography, Google is still unwilling to say whether or not the Chinese government ordered a temporary muzzle on its search engine around June 4, the 20th anniversary of the Chinese government's violent crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square.
For several days, Google.cn blocked all results for searches on Tiananmen Square, including ones that were entirely unrelated to the events of that day in 1989. Those results, such as travel-related sites, were restored last week.
In this case, however, Google was quite willing to state that it met with Chinese government officials to "discuss problems with the Google.cn service and its serving of pornographic images and content based on foreign language searches," a Google representative said in a statement.
The company is also putting some serious effort into making sure it complies with China's antipornography drive. "We are undertaking a thorough review of our service and taking all necessary steps to fix any problems with our results. This has been a substantial engineering effort, and we believe we have addressed the large majority of the problem results," Google said.
Just in case those efforts don't work, China still plans to require PC companies to install desktop monitoring software later this year, according to a separate report in The New York Times debunking claims earlier in the week that China was reconsidering the requirement in the wake of security problems with its Green Dam software.