The Chinese Health Ministry has been waging a very public war against pornography lately, and although they appeared to be softening their approach, new developments on Thursday have left Google scrambling. In what some people are calling “a rigged demo”, a CCTV state-owned television monopoly broadcast an interview demonstrating the dangers of the Google Suggested Search feature which attempts to auto complete simple search terms with popular related queries. At one point during the interview, when the host typed the word “son” into Google, a suggested search was returned stating, “abnormal relationship between son and mother”.
Google has formally commented on the matter, and has explained that the suggested search feature is based on popularity. In their defense, Google claims that nobody had entered this phrase for several months, but the term suddenly became popular in Beijing in the days leading up to the show. Though this is hardly conclusive evidence of a conspiracy, it certainly falls into the category of “suspicious” if true.Regardless, Google claims to be working on a new system that would help it remove all traces of pornography from its Chinese database, but describes it as “a major engineering effort”. "Google has been working to remove pornography from our search results in China, in accordance with our operating license there," the company said.
Google already filters a significant amount of political content from its search results, and critics fear that further censorship will only complicate the efforts of rights activists. It is also worth noting that the government agency charged with cracking down on pornography, is also responsible for suppressing illegal political activity. American officials have been critical of knee jerk restrictions on companies trying to comply with Chinas increasing demand for pornography censorship, and I’m sure we will hear more on this issue in the coming months.
What do you think of the ongoing developments in China?