Google hits exit key (5)

08:49, March 24, 2010      

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Meanwhile, Google is also continuing to censor search results in other countries. In 2002, the company admitted deleting more than 100 controversial sites from its listings on its French and German services. A study by Harvard University discovered the websites were deemed anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi or related to white supremacy, while a fundamentalist Christian site that adamantly opposed abortion was also removed.

"To avoid legal liability, we remove sites from search results pages that may conflict with German law," said a Google spokesman in response to the Harvard report. He indicated each site that was delisted came after a specific complaint from a foreign government.

A search by a China Daily reporter for a website run by Stormfront, a white supremacist neo-Nazi group that is credited with launching the first major "hate site", found that it was listed on but not accessible through either, its German service, or in France.

Marsha Wang, Google China's spokeswoman, said she could not comment on cases in Germany and France as she did not have any details.

"Google has branches in many different countries. We always abide by local laws," she said, adding that the company "had always abided by Chinese law" since it entered the market in 2006.

As the row between the Chinese government and Google has continued, however, analysts have been calling for the authorities to make how they control the Web more transparent. Critics argue that the procedures for the administration of Internet information services, which were approved by the State Council in 2000, are simply too vague and should be more clearly defined.

Under the rules, service providers are banned from producing, reproducing, releasing or disseminating information that "endangers national security or undermines national unity", "preaches the teachings of evil cults" and "disseminates rumors, disturbs social order or undermines social stability". It also prohibits "other information prohibited by the law or administrative regulations".

"It's reasonable for China to have strict Internet censorship, but the key is that law enforcement needs to be transparent," said Yu Guoming, a professor in communication and vice-president of Renmin University of China's school of journalism. "There is no problem being strict (but) there must be clear standards to say what is OK or what goes against the law.

Google's departure is a loss for the company and for China, he added.

Source: China Daily
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