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Google kowtows to China

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Google has been basking in good publicity from refusing US government demands to hand over search results but in China it is happy to create a search engine based on government specifications.

Google will offer a censored version of its search engine running on servers in China. It will remove results on "sensitive" topics like human rights and Tibet. The decision would not seem so bad coming from another company but Google used to pride itself on the morality of its business strategy and devotion to free speech.

Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel, said: "In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on Google.cn in response to local law, regulation or policy."

"While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission."

Google will offer web and image searches, local search and Google news. More on Reuters here.

The search giant will not offer its email or blogging services. Rival portal operations from Yahoo! and Microsoft have attracted controversy recently with Yahoo!'s decision to hand over personal details of a disident journalist and Microsoft's removal of certain words (democracy, freedom) from the Chinese version of MSN.

Reporters Without Borders accused the search giant of hypocrisy pointing out that it defends its US users against government action but will not offer Chinese users the same protection. More here.

Baidu.com is the local Nasdaq-listed rival to Google.

This is not the first time Google has kowtowed to government. This blog points out that Google Germany blocks access to a body modification (think extreme piercing) website in response to a request from the German government.

In other repressive bastards news Iran is blocking access to the BBC's Persian service for the first time - more details here.®

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