Google prompts users in China to change 'problematic' search queries

Google Search now suggests users in China to refine search query if their keywords are known to trigger disconnection to service, says company exec.

Users of Google Search in China will now be prompted to change their search terms if the keywords are known to trigger lost connection to Google services.

In a blog post Thursday, Alan Eustace, senior vice president of knowledge at Google, said users in China had complained about Google Search being "inconsistent and unreliable" as their connection to the search engine would be disrupted for up to a minute when performing certain search queries.

After its own investigation, the company found that the source of the problems was not due to Google's systems but was related to searches of certain keywords, Eustace said. "We've observed that many of the terms triggering error messages are simple everyday Chinese characters, which can have different meanings in different contexts," he said.

Google now highlights problem keywords as users in China type their search queries. When they enter the "problematic" keyword, a dropdown menu will inform them the search term may cause a disconnection to Google.

Eustace explained users can choose to continue with the search query and risk a connection lost, or refine their search terms.

Although Google in 2010 moved its Chinese search operations to Hong Kong over censorship issues, its Internet traffic is still assumed to be monitored and blocked by the Great Firewall of China.