China’s Internet memory hole

It’s no shocker the People’s Republic of China would like its citizens to forget the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

But it’s a little more surprising the communist country may have an unexpected helping hand from the world’s leading Internet company – Google.

Recently the company has said it will censor its search services in China in order to gain greater access to China’s fast-growing market.

Google, which has offered a Chinese-language version of its search engine for years (but with government blocks), is setting up a new site – – which it will censor itself to satisfy officials in Beijing, according to the BBC.

Critics of the move warn that the new version could restrict access to thousands of sensitive terms and Web sites. Such topics are likely to include independence for Taiwan and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, CNN reported.

Google has said it plans to notify users when access had been restricted on certain search terms, the BBC reported, and the company argues it can play a more useful role in China by participating than by boycotting it, despite any compromises involved.

“While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission,” the company stated.

Other Internet companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo! have also been criticized recently for bowing to Beijing’s authoritarian ways.

Yahoo! and Microsoft have defended themselves from criticism by saying they have no power to influence governments, but rather, their services enable “far wider access to independent sources of information for hundreds of millions of individuals in China and elsewhere,” according to a statement from the companies.

It’s a shame the Chinese government is limiting information in such a fashion, but what’s a Google to do?

Any way you search it, it’s a lose-lose situation for the company. Google can receive criticism for “caving in,” or it can lose the opportunity to help provide information to millions of people through its search engine.

Before wagging a finger at Google, we should remember that Google’s deal with China comes on the heels of a request by the U.S. Department of Justice to make Google disclose data on what people were searching for. Google said “screw you” to the feds and has said it would say the same to China if Beijing asked for such information.

It’s easy to condemn Google and others for their search engines-turned-Chinese memory holes, but we also understand the quagmire these Internet companies fall into when dealing with China.

Do they provide a censored outlet of information or do they not provide one at all?

The real villain here is China, who has censored information and limited the rights of its citizens in a truly Orwellian fashion for decades now. The Internet has provided a wealth of information at the fingertips of the world’s citizens. Sadly, that’s not so in the People’s Republic, and we can’t blame Google for that.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.