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Two weeks ago I said that we would probably hear about the outcome from the negotiations soon, and that:
I suspect the fact that neither side has walked off yet means that Beijing is studying the feasibility of allowing Google to display uncensored results, but then blocking individual pages from the results themselves.The endgame of those negotiations has arrived, with a twist. Google has closed google.cn, but they’re now redirecting traffic to their Hong Kong-based search engine. Websites in Hong Kong are allowed to display whatever content they want, because for now the “One Country, Two Systems” policy still holds. For users inside mainland China, then, Google is no longer the one censoring their search results. Beijing has taken up that duty:
Several of Google's international search sites were failing to open, and when they could be accessed some users found that all searches, including for non-sensitive terms like "hello," were returning blank pages or error messages.That’s definitely the Great Firewall going into effect, as China figures out how to restrict the flow of information through Chinese Google. They haven’t blocked the site entirely yet- I assume teams of people in Beijing are trying to determine if they can allow it to remain open but fetter it with controls on which search queries reach Google and which pages from the results are available to users. In the meantime hopefully a few people in China will start wondering exactly why it is that their brothers in Hong Kong are allowed to read whatever they want on the exact same website, while they’re stuck with blank pages.
I had hoped one effect of the China/Google spat would be that other companies would follow Google’s lead, and today one has done just that:
GoDaddy.com Inc., the world's largest domain name registration company, plans to tell lawmakers Wednesday that it will cease registering Web sites in China in response to intrusive new government rules that require applicants to provide extensive personal data, including photographs of themselves.Censorship and government repression have gotten worse in China since the Olympics. Hopefully this is the start of a larger reaction to that from the rest of the world.
The rules, the company believes, are an effort by China to increase monitoring and surveillance of Web site content and could put individuals who register their sites with the firm at risk. The company also believes the rules will have a "chilling effect" on new domain name registrations.
GoDaddy's move follows Google's announcement Monday that it will no longer censor search results on its site in China. Analysts and human rights advocates have warned that China's insistence on censorship and control over information is becoming a serious barrier to trade.