Google executives in China met with representatives of the Chinese government on Thursday "to discuss problems with the Google.cn service and its serving of pornographic images and content based on foreign language searches," a company spokesperson confirmed Friday.
According to a report from Xinhua, the government-run news agency, Chinese authorities began blocking certain "Chinese-language results from any country."
"We are undertaking a thorough review of our service and taking all necessary steps to fix any problems with our results," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail. "This has been a substantial engineering effort, and we believe we have addressed the large majority of the problem results."
The engineering effort may refer in part to disentangling Google.cn from search indexes associated with other Google search sites, like Google.com, which will return Chinese-language search results for queries in Chinese just as Google.cn will return English-language search results for queries in English.
Google didn't immediately respond to a request to clarify the impact of China's censorship demand on queries from residents of China sent through search sites located outside of China.
A company spokesperson declined to clarify whether "content based on foreign-language searches" includes sensitive political terms.
This is not the first time Google has been criticized in China for pointing people to "vulgar and unhealthy" content. In a press conference in January, China's State Council Information Office, in conjunction with six other government ministries, criticized Chinese search engine Baidu and Google, among others, and denounced online pornography and vulgarity as a threat to the mental and physical health of Chinese citizens.
In a blog post about that porn crackdown, Rebecca MacKinnon, assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Center, observed that "the technology used to censor porn has ended up being used more vigorously to censor political content than smut."
Danwei.org, an English-language Chinese news blog based in Hong Kong, notes that Chinese Internet users blame this latest crackdown on Google as "a reaction against the PR and media disaster of the Green Dam."
Green Dam is the name of Internet-filtering software that the Chinese government has said must come with all computers sold in the country as of July 1. The software has been widely criticized as ineffective, insecure, and a waste of government money. It allegedly contains code belonging to at least one U.S. company.
According Danwei.org's translation of the official notice about Google on the Chinese government Web site, part of the problem is Google's search auto-complete suggestion feature. The search term "son," for example, reportedly generates a variety of adult search suggestions.
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