Tech

Google will instruct Chinese users how to avoid government censors

Holly Bensur Contributor

Google knows customer service.

The company will be updating its service in China by way of warning users that certain terms produce conflicts that briefly make the site unusable.

In a blog post on Thursday, Google said: “Over the past couple years, we’ve had a lot of feedback that Google search from mainland China can be inconsistent and unreliable. It depends on the search query and browser, but users are regularly getting error messages like ‘this webpage is not available’ or ‘the connection was reset’. And when that happens, people typically cannot use Google again for a minute or more.”

The search engine said it had attended to its systems and failed to locate any internal issues. Google said that the issues were “correlated with searches for a particular subset of queries,” The Guardian reports.

For instance, Google found that searches for Jiāng, a common surname that also means “river,” cause problems on their own and as part of searches that contain the character — like searches for Jiang Zemin, China’s former president.

Chinese authorities have a history of censoring the Internet in order to silence critics and monitor opposition. This strategy is known as the Great Firewall of China. For example, searches for recent protests and political suicides in Tibet are likely to draw a blank on any search engine in China because of the censorship.

Now, instead of being disappointed when a link leads to a blank site page, users will be notified by Google and the search engine will suggest that they use other terms for characters that are impassable.

“We’ve said before that we want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services,” the company said in the same blog post. “Our hope is that these written notifications will help improve the search experience in mainland China.”

The post also included a link that shows what the new warning below the search box will look like.

The warnings will likely trigger a step backward for relations between Google and Beijing.

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