Google has confirmed that the Chinese authorities have begun blocking certain terms from a local search engine, after the company said it would no longer censor results for those terms itself.
The Chinese government's Golden Shield, which uses Cisco routers to censor terms deemed inappropriate by the authorities, is filtering out sensitive search terms used on Google.co.hk, the search company told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.
"Certain terms seem to be being blocked by the firewall," said a Google spokesperson, referring to the 'Great Firewall of China', the popular nickname for Golden Shield.
On Monday, Google redirected Chinese users away from Google.cn to Google.com.hk, its service based in Hong Kong, in an attempt to legally provide local users with unfiltered results. It also said it had stopped censoring Chinese language Google Search, Google News and Google Images results.
"We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we've faced — it's entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China," said Google chief legal officer David Drummond in a blog post. "We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services."
The conflict between Google and the Chinese authorities stems from Google's announcement in January that its systems had come under a cyberattack that appeared to have been based in China. As a result of the attacks, the company said it would no longer censor its search engine on Google.cn.
The company told ZDNet UK that its decision to halt the self-censorship had been taken regardless of any potential loss of revenue in China. "We made this decision based on principle," said the Google spokesperson.
The Chinese government has not made any comment on whether it is blocking search terms on Google.com.hk. However, it has reacted to Google's actions, saying on Tuesday that the company was "totally wrong" to stop censoring its Chinese language search results, according to Chinese government portal Xinhua.