The recent fuss over search engine Google may be being used as justification to introduce the controversial anti-pornography filter Green Dam, a researcher and Chinese netizens say.
The government halted key features of the world's most popular search engine after claiming Google China's services, such as Google Suggest and Google Translate, helped Web users get easier access to pornography.
"It seems like they're looking for justification for Green Dam by showing all the nasty stuff that's out there on the Internet that they have to control," said Rebecca McKinnon, an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at the University of Hong Kong.
"It's odd that they're singling out Google so specifically," she told Bloomberg News.
Punishment for Google included suspending some of Google China's overseas Web page search services and associated words search services.
English-language search results were not affected. Access to foreign language searches on Google's Chinese portal seemed to operate normally yesterday.
But Huang Chengqing, deputy secretary-general of the Internet Society of China, said the government was not "picking on Google to get revenge for attacks" from foreign groups on Green Dam.
"The Google incident involves a single company, while the other is a long-debated issue. They are not necessarily related," Huang told China Daily yesterday, adding Google has not done enough to keep its extensive search techniques from finding excessive porn content.
Qu Xiaodong, an analyst with domestic consulting firm CCW Research, said Google China seems to be facing its worst crisis since entering China in 2005. The company was reported twice this year to the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center (CIIIRC).
"The reputation of the 'perfect Google' is now marred and it may be irreversible," Qu added.
A group of 19 US business associations, including Business Software Alliance, a trade group representing large software makers, and the American Chamber of Commerce in China, last Tuesday sent a letter to the Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong. They suggested China reviews its requirement that State-backed anti-pornography software Green Dam-Youth Escort be shipped with all personal computers sold in the country from July 1 following security and privacy concerns.
Critics and Web users complained that while the filter was designed to block pornography and violence content for underage users, it restricts most users' online access since the government demanded the filter be pre-installed or included in all new machines.
"The claim is abrupt. It is unfair to single out Google as if the other search engines were innocent," a netizen named "Vulgar Clean" from Jiangsu province wrote on Sina.com, a major Chinese portal.
Quoting the CIIIRC, a non-government agency, official national TV network CCTV last Thursday aired three programs in a row claiming Google's Chinese portal provided excessive links to pornography and "lewd" information that violated national regulations.
But none of the three programs interviewed Google for their response. Media and netizens have revealed that one of the interviewees in a prime time investigation show was the program's intern reporter.
The program could not be reached yesterday, but sources said crews were given little time to finish the report, which was suggested by government officials.
A statement from the Mountain View, California-based company on Saturday said Google is undertaking a thorough review of its service and taking all necessary steps to fix any problems with the results.
The company "works continually in China to stem pornography and material harmful to children" and it believes it has "addressed the large majority of the problem results", said Scott Rubin, a Google spokesman.