Yahoo, Google 'irresponsible' in China

The two search giants have come under fire from a human rights organisation for the activities of subsidiaries in China

Human rights organisation Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has accused two of the biggest names in search -- Yahoo! and Google -- of deliberately conspiring to censor the Web.

RSF called the pair "irresponsible" for blocking some content labelled as subversive by the Chinese government -- sites relating to Tibet's independence, for example. Such sites disappear from the Chinese language version of Yahoo and a Yahoo-parented search engine, Yisou, while a local search engine that Google now owns a share of, Baidu, also censors its results.

Google doesn't censor its own search results, however, except in cases where there are legal issues -- such as prohibiting racist sites turning up on French and German users' screens. RSF believes the change in attitude is due to the pair's wish to conquer a potentially lucrative and fast-growing market and says they are "making compromises that directly threaten freedom of expression".

Without help from Google or Yahoo!, the Chinese government is left to censor Web sites itself -- a more arduous task for the officials and one that means the odd "subversive" site is more likely to slip through the net, given the millions of homepages in existence.

The organisation is now calling on US politicians to protect the rights of Chinese Web users.