Google makes subtle swipe at censorship

June 1, 2012 at 2:49 PM
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BEIJING, June 1 (UPI) -- Google says it has changed its search page in China to warn users when they type a search term that could cause an interruption in service,

The U.S.-based Internet giant does not allude to any government censorship in the announcement, made Thursday on a company blog, but Internet analysts say it is likely the reason for the service interruptions, The New York Times reported Friday.

Analysys International said Google has lost market share in mainland China because of blocked Web sites and timeouts that can bar users from conducting new searches for more than a minute, the Times said.

"We've taken a long, hard look at our systems and have not found any problems. However, after digging into user reports, we've noticed that these interruptions are closely correlated with searches for a particular subset of queries," Google said. "So starting today we'll notify users in mainland China when they enter a keyword that may cause connection issues. By prompting people to revise their queries, we hope to reduce these disruptions and improve our user experience from mainland China."

Google said engineers looked at 350,000 popular search terms to find words that were "disruptive queries."

"We've observed that many of the terms triggering error messages are simple everyday Chinese characters, which can have different meanings in different contexts," Google said. An example is the Chinese character for river, or jiang, which causes an error message or a timeout on Google. The Times said it is also the surname of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, whose name is banned from Google searches in China.

Users can get around the problem by searching in Pinyin, the system used to transliterate Chinese characters into Latin script, Google said.

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