(I heard from some in mainland China that the situation for ordinary
Internet users has indeed deteriorated compared to one or two years
ago. The question remains: is the censorship somehow still marginal or
indeed already substantial? Or have we passed that point? /Geert)
Yahoo! clear worst offender in censorship tests on search engines
Reporters Without Borders said it found Yahoo! to be the clear worst
offender in censorship tests the organisation carried out on Chinese
versions of Internet search engines Yahoo!, Google, MSN as well as their
local competitor Baidu.
The testing threw up significant variations in the level of filtering.
While yahoo.cn censors results as strictly as baidu.cn, search engines
google.cn and the beta version of msn.cn let through more information
from sources that are not authorized by the authorities.
While Microsoft has just said it does not operate censorship, Reporters
Without Borders found that the Chinese version of its search engine
displays similar results to those of google.cn, which admits to
filtering its content. Searches using a "subversive" key word display on
average 83% of pro-Beijing websites on google.cn, against 78% on msn.cn.
By contrast, the same type of request on an uncensored search engine,
like google.com, produces only 28% of pro-Beijing sources of
information. However, Microsoft like Google appears not to filter
content by blocking certain keywords but by refusing to include sites
considered illegal by the authorities.
The press freedom organisation is particularly shocked by the scale of
censorship on yahoo.cn. first because the search results on "subversive"
key words are 97% pro-Beijing. It is therefore censoring more than its
Chinese competitor Baidu. Above all, the organisation was able to show
that requests using certain terms, such as 6-4 (4 June, date of the
Tiananmen Square massacre), or "Tibet independence", temporarily blocked
the search tool. If you type in one of these terms on the search tool,
first you receive an error message. If you then go back to make a new
request, even with a neutral key word, yahoo.cn refuses to respond. It
takes one hour before the service can be used again. This method is not
used by any other foreign search tools; only Baidu uses the same
Reporters Without Borders calls for search engines operating in
repressive countries to refuse to censor certain content said to be
"protected", such as information on human rights and democracy. "We
are convinced that these companies can still access the Chinese
market without betraying their ethical principles. They must
however adopt a firm and clear position in relation to the Chinese
authorities", it stressed.
Reporters Without Borders tested Chinese search engines by using
the following "subversive" key words: "6-4" (4 June, date of the
Tiananmen Square massacre), "Falungong", "Tibet Independence",
"Democracy" , "Human rights" and "press freedom". The first ten
"results displayed by each search engine were analysed and then
"divided into "authorized" and
"unauthorized" sources of information.
Research test on "press freedom" (in Chinese), the first ten results:
- Google.com: 7 "unauthorized", 3 "authorized" sites (72 million results)
- Google.cn: 5 "unauthorized", 3 "authorized" (52 million results)
- Msn.cn (Beta): 3 "unauthorized", 7 "authorized" (800,000 results)
- Yahoo.cn: 1 "unauthorized", 9 "authorized" (240,000 results)
- Baidu.cn: 3 "unauthorized", 7 "authorized" (450,000 results)
More search results can be found at the Reporters without Borders -
Reporters sans frontieres website in an MS-Excel spreadsheet marked