Google has axed a censorship notice on its Chinese search engine, as the firm looks to build on its paltry 5% market share in the rapidly growing market. Launched 6 months ago, the censorship warning notified Chinese users that their searches are filtered by the nation’s ‘Great Firewall’. For instance, when people tried to search for the term “freedom” from mainland China, they would get a pop-warning from Google that said, “We’ve observed that searching for [freedom] in mainland China may break your connection to Google for a short while. This interruption is outside of Google’s control,” and it would give the person the option to change the search term or search anyway.
However, at some point during December 2012, the warning stopped being displayed and the help article that explained how to use the feature was removed.
Google and the Chinese government have been battling it out over the censorship issue for years, since Google began offering its search service in the country in 2006.
Google’s China results have been government-filtered since a censorship spat in 2010, and China has occasionally cracked down on Gmail and other Google services.
Google has always spoken against censorship (the main conflict in 2010 was the company’s refusal to self-censor according to Chinese guidelines) so this notification removal comes as somewhat of a surprise.
In 2012, Eric Schmidt talked on the futility of censorship in China, saying: ”We believe in empowering people who care about freedom of expression […] The conflict there is at some basic level: We want that information [flowing] into China, and at some basic level the government doesn’t want that to happen.”
Wired magazine speculates that Google’s removal of the censorship notification isn’t a form of capitulation, but rather an attempt hold on to their users:
Despite dominating many markets in search, Google only has 5% market share in China, compared to competitor Baidu’s 74%.