Google permits porn? So says China

Beijing accused the company of being too lax on vulgar content, even as rights groups say it’s too aggressive in filtering politically sensitive topics.

By , Staff writer

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    A woman talks on her cell phone while using a laptop at a ceremony to launch Google's free music download service for China in Beijing in March.
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BEIJING – Poor old Google. Just a couple of weeks after bending over backwards to keep Chinese government censors happy during its sensitive Tiananmen anniversary, the company that pledges not to be “evil” is being thumped by Beijing for being pornographers.

A Chinese government watchdog castigated Google Thursday, saying in a report that the company had “spread a great deal of pornography and lewd information, seriously violated China’s laws and regulations, violated social ethics, and damaged the public interest.”

The government body, going by the somewhat Orwellian name of “Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center,” suggested that “the relevant legal enforcement departments punish the company according to the law.”

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This sharp rap on the knuckles came despite the fact that around the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4, Google did far more than might be thought necessary not to offend Chinese censors.

Anyone searching on Google.cn during that week or so for “Tiananmen Square” did not even get the bland tourist information that normally comes up. (Nothing about the massacre ever appears on a Google search inside the Great Firewall, or any other search engine search, for that matter.)

Instead, they got a message saying that “search results may contain content not in accord with relevant government laws, regulations and policies. Cannot be displayed.”

Google has always said that it has to obey Chinese law on its Chinese website, and that it is morally preferable to do what it can to open up information for China’s 298 million Internet users, instead of staying out of the market and doing nothing.

A company statement in response to Thursday’s attack said that Google has been “continually working to deal with pornographic content – and material that is harmful to children – on the web in China.”

But Google’s zeal earlier this month in censoring even maps showing how to get to Tiananmen Square sits ill with its commitment, under the Global Network Initiative to encourage free speech, that it would “respect and protect the freedom of expression rights of their users when confronted with government demands … to remove content or otherwise limit access to information.”

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