There are mixed reports today about whether or not Google has lifted censorship of its Chinese search engine, as it has promised to do. Various journalists and others in China report that previously blocked search results have been accessible today and yesterday. From MSNBC:
For the final search, “Tiananmen Square massacre” was typed in, deliberately choosing the more controversial phrase instead of “Tiananmen Square incident.”
Once again, a long list of results appeared, detailing the military crackdown on protesters on 4 June 1989. The famous picture of a lone man blocking a line of tanks was among them.
Each time, simply clicking on the links to the results enabled the sites to be accessed without any difficulty.
“It does seem that the filters are not fully working,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of danwei.org, a Beijing-based Web site that tracks media and the internet in China.
“But no one knows exactly what’s going [on],” he said.
The searches proved erratic and on some occasions access to controversial Web sites was denied. But there was a significant change compared to six months ago.
Yet Google and the official Chinese media say that nothing has been changed. From MarketWatch:
The China Daily said that Google’s Chinese unit was complying with government regulation to filter search results, despite official concerns it might stop doing so.
The report quoted Google China spokeswoman Marsha Wang as saying: “We are still doing that [providing censored search results], and have not received any orders to shut down the business.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal blog writes that Google’s advertising resellers have apparently written an open letter protesting the impact Google’s recent actions have had on their businesses:
China’s state-run broadcaster, China Central Television, published on its Web site Tuesday the text of a letter, claiming it was sent from a group of 27 Google advertising resellers to John Liu, who leads Google’s sales team and oversees the company’s business operations in greater China.
The impassioned letter complains that Google has not given them guidance since its announcement in January that it may pull out of China, and says the companies have watched their business volume decline and have been powerless to stop it, and worry that they face bankruptcy if Google (GOOG) withdraws.
After calling many of the companies listed as signatories of the letter, we couldn’t confirm its authenticity. If real, the letter offers one glimpse into how far-reaching a Google exit from China could be.
Digicha has summarized an article from Caijing which gives some details about the progression of talks between Google and the Chinese government since Google announced its intention to stop censoring Google.cn.
Update: For an interesting technical explanation of why some search queries may now be returning results that would otherwise be censored, see this post from Nart Villeneuve.