Google Stops Censoring Content in China, Launches Availability Monitor

Google announced Monday that it had stopped censoring content in China, as it said it would do in January of this year, and that it was redirecting searches in China to its Hong Kong service, where content is served in simplified Chinese uncensored. The company made the announcement through a blog post by Senior Vice President David Drummond, who also announced the launch of a new monitoring page where the world can see what Google services have been blocked by the Chinese communist government.

“Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on has been hard,” Mr. Drummond wrote. “We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.”

The company said it believes its redirect to Hong Kong is legal, but acknowledged that the Chinese government could block access to its Hong Kong servers at any time. China could take any number of other measures to prevent access, as well, including simply taking away Google’s .cn domain that the company is redirecting in the first place.

The row between Google and China was first made public on January 12th, 2010, when Google announced that several hacking attempts against the Gmail accounts of known Chinese dissidents had been traced back the Chinese government. In response, the company said it would cease censoring content, which is required by the Chinese government, and said it would pull out of China if necessary. Today’s announcement is the fulfillment of that promise by the company.

The monitoring tool the company currently shows a mix of blocked, partially blocked, and fully accessible Google services. The company’s main search site is, as of 3/21, fully accessible, while several services such as YouTube have long been blocked.

Google Monitor
Screenshot from Google’s app service access monitor

Mr. Drummond also went to lengths to try and clear its local employees in China of any responsibility for today’s actions.

“Finally, we would like to make clear that all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them,” he wrote. “Despite all the uncertainty and difficulties they have faced since we made our announcement in January, they have continued to focus on serving our Chinese users and customers. We are immensely proud of them.”