So, its actually been a pretty crazy week in the internet biz – especially for Google’s business in China. I made a note on a bookmark about this when it became clear that they would more than likely be headed out of China, but now its official and as of the last few days all the Google.cn were initially redirected to the non-filtered Hong Kong results and by now its probably impossible for those inside to access at all.
The situation here isn’t simple by any stretch. Tensions have been brewing between America and China over the last few years – some of it is over currency, jobs, or even the quality and safety of imported products. Google’s complaints aren’t really related to this background tension, but its existence complicates things for sure.
What Google is upset about here is the filtering of web content. Their whole business model is about making information more available, so operating under the restrictions of a government who wants strict controls on who can read what. Between the relatively low consumer power in China (and resultingly bad ad market) and the extra costs of complying with an arbitrary censorship regime, doing digital business behind the Great Firewall doesn’t sound particularly profitable or fun.
Oh yeah, but here’s the best part. In keeping with China’s tradition of controlling the news, here is the actual instructions that reporters are supposed to follow when commenting on the latest Google drama:
All chief editors and managers:
Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens’ discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:
A. News Section
1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources
2. Reposting must not change title
3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites
4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting;
5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden.
6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.
B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:
1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic
2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top
3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.
4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy
5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions
6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.
We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.
– Do not participate in and report Google’s information/press releases
– Do not report about Google exerting pressure on our country via people or events
– Related reports need to put [our story/perspective/information] in the center, do not provide materials for Google to attack relavent policies of our country
– Use talking points about Google withdrawing from China published by relevant departments
This translation was originally posted here, where you can find some other instructions to reporters operating inside of China’s restrictive legal system.
Is it hilarious or frightening? On one hand its absurd to think that any government can disrupt the flow of information now that we have such technology available as to make its transmission simple and instant, and on the other, its scary to think of what they are willing to do to fight what seems as otherwise inevitable. One thing I know for sure is this: as soon as you start putting limits on what web behaviors are acceptable or not, someone will come along and find away around the barriers you put up. For their sake, let’s hope they don’t get caught by China’s internet police.