China is not relenting in its latest campaign against “vulgar” material on the Web. In its latest salvo against the free flow of information, the People’s Republic has ordered Google to shut down its foreign Web site search and disabled the keyword suggestion function on google.cn, claiming the company isn’t doing enough to restrict pornographic images and text from its search results. China threatened punishment for the search giant if it does not revamp its site to exclude indecent materials, though it’s unclear what that punishment might be.
Yesterday, reporters on China Central Television demonstrated how typing innocuous words into the search field on Google can elicit keyword suggestions that might be construed as lewd. Meanwhile, China’s Internet watchdog condemned Google for allowing illicit material to reach Chinese networks from overseas sites. Google is in discussions with Chinese officials to resolve the issue.
China’s crackdown on Google comes as another international debate is unfolding over the government’s mandate that all PCs sold in the country be packaged with state-controlled Web filtering software. China claims the software will only be used to keep pornographic materials from reaching the desktops of young people, but human rights groups claim it’s an attempt to muzzle free speech, and security experts have raised serious concerns about the software’s vulnerability to cyber attacks. Fueling the fire, a California-based software firm has claimed China’s software is pirated. China has refused to budge on a July 1 deadline for the software’s implementation.