Search Engines’ Chinese Self-Censorship

From Technology Review:

To operate in China, search engine companies based in the United States have built products that cooperate with China’s policies of Internet censorship. That much has long been recognized. But a new analysis suggests that search companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, are independently deciding what to censor and could be censoring more information than Chinese laws demand.

A report released last week by the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto found that different search engines are blocking fairly different content. “The low overlap means that companies are choosing the exact content to censor or, alternatively, to not censor,” says Nart Villeneuve, a senior research fellow at the Citizen Lab and the author of the report. “That doesn’t mean that they’re not getting guidance from the Chinese government in other ways,” he notes. But Villeneuve says that if search engines are interpreting Chinese policies to decide what to censor, that introduces the possibility that they may block more content than is strictly necessary.