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Making Sense of Google’s China Page

John on January 29, 2006 at 12:24 am

A couple of people left comments on my last post suggesting that google was not in fact censoring search results. The numbers the commenters were getting when they searched terms like “jesus christ” were off from mine by a factor of 100. I knew we were seeing differnt things, what I didn’t know was why.

I did some digging and I think I’ve figured out what’s going on. Here is the google china page (URl: google.cn) annotated with English translations (these translations were made with Google’s own translator):

google

Note the four options below the search window. Depending which one you select, you get completely different results. If you use Homepage (the default) you get quite a few results. This is what my commenters below were doing. However, I had linked from another site which had the “China’s Homepage” button selected. I got much lower results.

At this point it’s anyone’s guess exactly what these button’s mean. Is “China’s homepage” what you get in China? Or do they also have access to “All Chinese Homepage”? I don’t think so. Here’s why…

Using google translation tool (very handy that), I translated “tiananmen square” into Chinese. It looks like this: 天安门广场. I then fed that into the google.cn page with the “Homepage” button selected. It performs the search but when the results come up, the “China’s homepage” radio button has suddenly been selected for me. In fact I can’t switch to the other options with this search term. It just keeps reverting back to “China’s homepage”

Next I clicked on the second set of characters above the search window (the picture search option) and got this:

google2

Happy times in Tiananmen! So we’re obviously getting the Chinese search results at this point since there are no tanks in sight.

Finally, I took a look at the source code for the page. The radio buttons are labeled. The homepage button is labeled “all”. Buttons 2 and 3 have labels that say “lr=lang_zh-CN|lang_zh-TW” and “lr=lang_zh-CN”. This stands for language traditional and language simplified. Both of these are available through the language tools page of google.com. If you roll over them you’ll see the same codes in the URl. However button four reads “cr=countryCN.” I could be wrong but it looks to me like button four is exactly what it says: China’s actual google homepage.

If so, then what I said before about China censoring Christian links available to us and most of the Western World is accurate, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong on this if someone has better info.

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