We all knew it was a matter of "when" not "if", but it's surprising to see that it had to happen this way. Over on Google Blogscoped, I see that Google Removes Its Help Entry on Censorship:

The page which used to say:

Google does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results.

Now simply 404s. It's gone. Well, except for the cached copy in Google itself.

Rather than using that page to explain how and why they've compromised their corporate philosophy in China, they've removed it entirely with no explanation.

Now, it's entirely possible that they've written a new page and didn't have the sense to update the old one in-place, thereby breaking the URL. But I've been unable to find evidence of that. Can you?

I guess that giant sucking sound coming from Mountain View this week was the sound of Google's soul getting sucked out to make more room for cash. True Colors indeed.

What a sad week in the world of web search, huh? There was the DoJ subpoena, the "Yahoo gives up on search" scare, and now this. I can only hope that this month is over soon.

Posted by jzawodn at January 27, 2006 08:14 AM

Reader Comments
# Alex Moskalyuk said:
on January 27, 2006 08:25 AM
# Per said:

Also, did Google fire their PR department or do they really think keeping this quiet will make them look better?

on January 27, 2006 08:32 AM
# Mario said:

Under "Help Center > About Google > Principles", there's something similar, although rather than "censor" it's now called "Does Google ever manipulate its search results?". Also, any mention of democracy has disappeared...


on January 27, 2006 08:40 AM
# DeWitt Clinton said:

Alex -- that's incredible. And profoundly disturbing.

And by way of comparison, here are those same image searches on Yahoo!




Or the following, if the above characters don't make it through the comment form intact:


(Those are, from what I can best determine, the Simplified Chinese characters for the name of the famous square. The search for "tiananmen" return no results at all.)

No matter what, this is indeed a dark month in search.


on January 27, 2006 08:50 AM
# dan said:

Don't forget once a company is public, it is ONLY mission is to increase shareholder value. Anything else a company claims is just marketing to that same end.
See Dodge vs Ford http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_v._Ford_Motor_Company

on January 27, 2006 09:21 AM
# Aaron Schaub said:

To quote a fine piece of cinema:

"When you dance with the devil, the devil donít change. The devil changes you."

I suppose it doesn't matter if the devil is and IPO or a repressive government.

on January 27, 2006 09:55 AM
# Rob Sanheim said:

I'm curious to know how the image filtering works for censoring things like the tanks in Tiananmen square. I'm sure a lot of that can be figured out from the context of where the image is and who links to it, etc. Yet there still must be some "offensive" images out there that can't be filtered automatically...

on January 27, 2006 10:13 AM
# Mike said:

Er, this from a Yahoo operative, Yahoo, which played a key role in getting an independent journalist thrown in jail for 10 years not too long ago. Talk about a company losing its soul.

on January 27, 2006 10:33 AM
# Srijith said:

I guess they were just following Yahoo!'s illustrious example:


A Yahoo spokeswoman said it had to operate within each country's laws.

"Just like any other global company, Yahoo must ensure that its local country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based," said Mary Osako.

on January 27, 2006 10:56 AM
# jr said:

But Yahoo's evil, right? I mean it's not like Yahoo came up with some self inflating, vague corporate philosophy statement and set of Core Principles and Guidelines that seem to change about as often as the calendar page does.

I mean the all-powerful, ever encompassing Goo(r)g is a purely benevolent entity that promises to fill our world with free candy and happy puppies (or at least that's what the beta promises) and can do no wrong, ever, because they're the obvious highwater standard for corporate morality.

(You know, for a community of folks that pride themselves on scientific thought, there really aren't as many cynics as there ought to be.)

on January 27, 2006 11:13 AM
# dan isaacs said:

I don't recall Yahoo! making a lot of noise about "Not doing Evil". Which core principle of the comapny was Yahoo! breaking when it decided to cooperate with the Chinese?

on January 27, 2006 11:59 AM
# fartikus said:

> I can only hope that this month is over soon.

au contraire, it has been very educational for citizens to see exactly what happens when an aggresively invasive political entity meets a construct with rights but no values, namely the modern corporation.

exposing this relationship is only painful for people who value money over freedom.

now what country and corporation am i talking about?

on January 27, 2006 12:55 PM
# Joe Hunkins said:

There is no small irony in Google refusing what some would call a modest request from DOJ yet giving in to the blatant censorship request by China.

But don't we owe them (and Yahoo and MSN) the benefit of doubt until details shake out? The question for Brin,Page,Schmidt was probably NO Google in China vs some Google in China.

on January 27, 2006 02:02 PM
# Mihai Parparita said:

That support page about censorship lives on, albeit at a different URL and updated with the latest information*:


* Note that what it says was applicable pre-google.cn as well, due to DMCA/French/German censorship.

on January 27, 2006 04:11 PM
# bubba said:

I could care less what Google is doing in China. That's their business. I do care though that Yahoo buckled like a house of cards to the request for search data to US officials. You can't take the high road here Zawodny, the difference here is that Google compromised the Chinese while Yahoo compromised those of us in the US.

on January 27, 2006 07:46 PM
# Who cares said:

Recently with my discussion with certain Yahoo employees, they agreed that Yahoo Mail su**s. Even in their office, they use gmail and gaim (not YM). And then we have people like you trying to take every oppurtunity to preach sense to people. Grow Up! Bottomline is they will still kick your ASS bigtime.

on January 28, 2006 02:44 AM
# Tom said:

Reading this post, my first thoughts were 'you absolute fucking hypocrit', but i thought - man - that's quite nasty. Not in the spirit of this blog. But then I read it again, and thought man - you absolute fucking hypocrit.

Google, sure, they've allowed some degree of censorship on their results. They've not handed over data to the Chinese government to aid sending a man to a labour camp.

on January 28, 2006 04:22 AM
# Mario said:

Re. the search for tiananmen on images.google.cn: try searching for "Tiananmen" instead of "tiananmen" (i.e. capital T), and you get very different results, most of the tank images are back...
Whether this is something specific to how Google search technology works with the Chinese language, or not-yet-perfected censorship I don't know.

on January 28, 2006 06:01 AM
# Mike C said:

To it's credit, at least google posts a notice at the bottom of the page that tells people the results are censored. This is far better than Yahoo is doing right now.

I completely disagree with censorship on principal but must say that if it is absolutely neccessary (in this case) then posting a warning is commendable.

Roughly translated says: According to the local laws and regulations and our policy these search results may not demonstrate all avaliable items.

on January 28, 2006 08:32 AM
# Pudge said:

Joe Hunkins: Actually, the irony is quite small, if it exists at all. The reason Google (and Yahoo!) complied in China is because the law there requires them to. On the other hand, Google reasonably (though none of us really knows if they are correct) believes they have no legal obligation to comply with the request from the U.S. government. If the court rules they do, then they almost surely will.

on January 28, 2006 08:37 AM
# Kyle said:

There was also a note on the official Google blog:


on January 28, 2006 09:00 AM
# Neil K said:

The FAQ has been updated. Google's FAQ system doesn't automatically reuse ids, but I guess they made an exception in this case.


on January 28, 2006 10:17 AM
# kevin said:

A very sad day for you blog too- this blog post is beyond comment.

on January 28, 2006 11:09 AM
# Joe Hunkins said:

Pudge - maybe a good point though in China's case they are simply accepting Govts interpretation of law where in US they challenge it. The content in questions weakens their case - most would agree that porn protection is not as sacred as political protection.

But simply drawing the lines on these slippery slopes as "what is legal in country X" creates it's own set of hazards, and I think the SE's have responsibilities that go beyond simply "compliance".

Mike, I thought the literal translation of:


was this:

"WTF? You expect us to let Yahoo and MSN take over the biggest search market on earth?! No F*ing Way!

on January 28, 2006 12:23 PM
# fartikus said:

> maybe a good point though in China's case they are simply accepting Govts interpretation of law where in US they challenge it

you are wrong joe, the DOJ is not enforcing a passed law when they solicit web firms to hand over logs - they are simply interpreting DOJ's broad subpeona power to enable them to scare up data to support a *proposed* law.

> But simply drawing the lines on these slippery slopes as "what is legal in country X"

once again, they like any entity must follow the laws of a jurisdiction should they choose to reside or do business there. if the chinese want to abide a dictatorship that is their problem, not ours.

the search engines are shooting themselves in the feet anyway should they cave to the govt in the US. they will simply create a market for anonymous proxies...and then *poof* their ad profiling model dies. this of course in addition to the air of mistrust that now exists with their users.

on January 28, 2006 02:02 PM
# Tom Olgin said:

This is why DO NO EVIL is much different than DO THE RIGHT THING. Maybe someday there will be a powerful compamy that does good, instead of simply trying not to be evil.

on January 28, 2006 03:29 PM
# Anjan said:

Wow, quite a backlash against you Jeremy :) I'm not going to get into a diatribe here but I thought even you would laugh at this Mark Fiore animation on this whole issue - http://www.markfiore.com/animation/search.html

He is right in saying that none of the search engines can claim higher ground here because each and everyone has succumbed to financial greed over human rights. I really don't think Google would have refused handing over the data to the feds here if their bottomline was at stake. The market in China is huge and lucrative. So what if they have a google.cn that filters results? People in China can still go to google.com and get unfiltered results. At least they didn't hand over democracy advocates like Yahoo did. That was truly rock-bottom.

on January 28, 2006 09:54 PM
# Joe Hunkins said:

>People in China can still go to google.com and get unfiltered results

No, I'm pretty sure they cannot. China has some pretty intense filtering mechanisms and I think it was the problems caused by these filters working with the normal SERPS that led the SE's to provide their own censored results.

I think there should be some agreed upon standards for censored results that force 1) China rather than the SE to do the censoring and 2) make it clearer to users that censored results are getting left off.

"No censorship" is not an option in China and it's not reasonable to ask Google to act differently than Yahoo and MSN. It IS reasonable to ask all of them to act more like free speech advocates and less like profiteers.

on January 28, 2006 10:59 PM
# dan isaacs said:

It seems that most of you are simply missing the point here. Of course, it is a no-brainier that Google Inc. has to comply with the laws of the countries it does business in. But that isn't point. Did Google break one of its core beliefs?

Do some of these laws support "Evil"? If you have an argument that censoring a Government's actions to hide its atrocities is not supporting Evil, then make it. Lacking one, Google clearly changed its behavior to support an Evil enterprise.

So does Supporting Evil == Doing Evil? You'd need to split a few metaphysical hairs to argue it doesn't.

on January 29, 2006 06:12 AM
# Joe Hunkins said:

I still think this is not about evil it's about ... cash.

The SE's correctly contend that they can't be in China with "no censorship" and rationalize this suggesting they are staking out "low ground" with the idea they can help bring reforms by playing the game.

This could be naive but it could also be...true. I'm always frustrated by how we Americans pretend to value free speech when many don't want to hear more than a tiny dose of serious criticism from abroad.

Have you watched TV news lately? Most outlets practice non govt commercial censorship. That's not as bad as Govt censors, but it still sucks.

on January 29, 2006 10:02 AM
# Jay said:

Wow! you guys are so stupid. Don't you see that corporations like Google Yahoo and MSN would go to any length to keep their business growing, even if it means altering their company moto. If Google is ready to ignore their motto for just for a few million bucks (yes a few million bucks) they don't care a damn about their company motto. Their company motto was just to attract morons like us to believe in them blindly, and chant along with them "Do no Evil!!" Bull shit!!! Grow up guys, this is corporate America!!!

And if Yahoo handed over a journalist they were complying with local laws. If Google had to censor results they were doing so to comply with local laws.

And I really don't see anything wrong in search engines having to comply with the Government. If MSN and Yahoo provided a week's search data without revealing personal information, I don't see anything wrong with that. I guess you guys don't have kids at home. If this data is needed to safeguard crime against our childer then fucking heck Google better provide it. If they are trying to be a super-hero by fighting the request they are only trying to garner some PR points, ridiculous. In the end the Internet has to be a safe medium for our children, and not that of e-crime.

on January 29, 2006 10:34 AM
# Pat said:

Sorry to say that Yahoo and its folks shouldn't be saying too much about Google's following the laws and procedures required to do business in China when in the USA Google resists while Yahoo and MSN simply bend over. Are you saying Yahoo lost its soul previously or that it never had one?

on January 29, 2006 10:44 AM
# Bill said:

Has Google helped imprison any journalists yet? Just curious as to what the count was up to on the "holier than thou" scoreboard.

Guess it's evil to obey the law, eh? Interesting...

on January 29, 2006 01:36 PM
# Jay said:

Oops, I meant "safeguard our children against crime" and not "safeguard crime against our childer " :)

on January 29, 2006 02:15 PM
# Andrew Hillman said:

Very nice site and article on Google!

on January 29, 2006 02:30 PM
# Ben said:

This is an issue where Google had no completely "un-evil" options. Objecting to Chinese laws on a moral grounds would have been the worse of the the two. By refusing to participate in the Chinese market, they would not be doing anything to help fight against Chinese censorship. I'm sure that the Chinese government would be perfectly happy to continue their censorship campaign without an extra search engine available to the populace.

However, in a country where censorship is now accepted as a guarantee, having one more resource is not a bad thing. Sure, it would be great if Google could somehow wave its magic wand and say "China, thou shalt not censor." But the fact is, that Google has no such magic wand and boycotting China does nothing but take away an information resource from the Chinese people. Google has obviously taken steps to avoid the same fiasco that Yahoo! went through when they surrendered email records of a Chinese dissident to the Chinese government, by blocking service to such mediums that would be accessable to the Chinese government, and they have made it visible that searches are censored.

Sure, this is good for Google's financial future, but it is also good for the Chinese people who want to access the search engine without the lag, blockage, and expense of trying to access it across the sea with Chinese servers, and while it is good for Google or any company to face criticism for its actions, it is also a pity that the majority of bloggers seem to have taken the knee jerk absolutist morality view that disregards the consequences of actions. Google's entrance into China gives it so much more potential for good than a poorly founded moral argument to limit the resources of the Chinese people. I applaud Google for making the right decision despite the obvious fact that it would have to face the condemnation of many. While this action may not prove that Google is not evil, the other decision would have proved Google a shallow hive of naivete and a greater care for perceived good than actual good.

on January 30, 2006 01:29 AM
# Jeff said:

Google staying out of China on principle would deprive 1/3 of the world's population of access to a great search engine.

It's easy to stand on principle when doing so has no effect on you personally. I don't see why people get so bent out of shape about Google playing by China's rules of censorship as a cost of doing business there. From what I've seen, most of the people doing the complaining don't seem to have a horse in that race. Now that the company has shareholders, leaving money on the table requires more justification than pointing to a mission statement developed when David and Jerry were fresh out of Stanford. For better or worse, the company ceded the right to be operated as an egalitarian democracy when it went public.

on January 30, 2006 05:56 PM
# Mike# said:

Yes, Google lost its soul. On the other hand Yahoo has sold its soul. Google is not just a better search engine, it stands up for its users. On the other hand Yahoo and its stooges are at best disingenuous.

on January 31, 2006 12:45 AM
# Amit said:

Yeah right. Why dont you check out this link on how Yahoo lost its soul???


on February 1, 2006 03:18 AM
# JM said:

If you call abidding the Law, selling ones soul, so be it. Yahoo sold its soul to the Law in China.
Google on the other hand literally sold its soul for a few million dollars it might make in China. Google is expanding like any other 'evil' corporation in America. Nothing non-evil about them anymore and nothing wrong with global expansion at the cost of being evil.

on February 1, 2006 11:45 AM
# Alistair said:

To be fair Jeremy, it'll only be a matter of time before the same thing happens to Yahoo!. Sooner or later the bean counters will want more beans to count, you can only whore advertising and other associated cruft for so long before people stop paying attention. Should we expect a similar post from you in the coming months/years when it happens to Yahoo! as well?


on February 7, 2006 04:09 PM
# Outside perspective said:

Why is everyone so appalled by the pragmatic approach of Google ? Besides they took their cue from the USA government - not so ? Who turned a blind eye to Tiananmen ? Who thinks trade is more important than human rights ? Google is an American company - why are you so surprised it acts American ?

on February 22, 2006 04:04 AM
# Enid said:

Google has a well-deserved reputation as the top choice for those searching the web. The crawler-based service provides both comprehensive coverage of the web along with great relevancy.
Baidu in China is like Google in the US. Keywords advertisement on Baidu in China has been proven to be as effective as keyword advertisement on Google in the US. If you had to choose
one search engine to advertise in China, you should choose Baidu AmeriChinaB2B Inc, which runs the most visited US-China business to business (B2B) web platforms, now offers services to enable US businesses to advertise on Baidu.com. These services will help US businesses export to China, the world's fastest growing market. For more information, please check:www,acb2b,com and www,acb2b,cn

on September 13, 2007 05:27 AM
# Asbestos Attorneys said:

Google can be described as a powerful tool of internet manipulation nowadays... Do you take this statement as a joke? Well, you should check the statistics...

on November 20, 2008 01:07 AM
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