In order to be a part of the Chinese search market, Google will need to censor certain results from the eyes of the searchers. This is according to Google co-founder, Sergey Brin. At the World Economic Forum in DAVOS, Switzerland, Brin said that Google has had a change of heart and will now censor some politically sensitive words from its search results.
According to Brin about the government imposed censorship, “Essentially the great firewall is sophisticated enough that it would block connections based on sensitive queries. The end result was that we weren’t available to about 50 percent of the users. Universities can’t afford the international bandwidth, so for example students at Tsinghua University – and I saw this myself – had to pay in order to use Google, and I mean pay a lot, even 25 cents a megabyte, which would be unaffordable even by American standards.”
Brin goes onto say, “The practical matter is that over the last couple of years Google in China was censored – not by us but by the government, via the ‘Great Firewall,'” said Brin. “It’s not something I enjoy but I think it was a reasonable decision.”
According to Brin, this type of censorship is already going on in the U. S. and Germany as well. In the U. S., Google is obligated to filter out child porn sites and in Germany, Nazi-related sites are also filtered out. Each market has its ‘culturally sensitive’ words that need to taken into account when delivering results. Google has decided to use self-censorship in China rather than have the government involved.
Concerning Google’s compromise to the Chinese government, Brin said, “I totally understand that people are upset about it and I think that is a reasonable point of view to take.”
One of the real issues, I suspect, is will Google be of value to searchers or simply frustrate them with an overly strict filtering system that blocks all of their attempts to find what is important to them? The real success of Google in China will revolve around answering this question.