Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Google suspended its “Suggest” search-prompt functionality in China after being criticised by the government for providing links to pornography. In doing this Chinese authorities are further accentuating their hold over the internet, just a few days before every computer built or sold on the mainland is supposed to have a software filter.
Google Suggest is a function that automatically prompts Web users with completed words as they type in the search box, using algorithms and other data to predict the query they are most likely to want to see, according to the company’s Web site.
Marissa Mayer, vice president for Google’s search unit, said in Taipei yesterday that Friday the company temporarily disabled the ‘Suggest’ functionality because of Chinese government’s complaints about inappropriate sites.
Google controls 27.8 per cent of China’s paid-search market last year.
For many experts the decision is linked to the requirement which comes into effect on 1 July that all computers built or sold in the country to have ‘Green Dam’ software, which stops access to certain sites or contents.
Ostensibly this is to deny access to vulgar or pornographic sites, but many experts see it as a tool to prevent people from accessing politically sensitive sites like those that mention the Falun Gong, a movement that is persecuted in mainland China.
Internet firms and the United States government have expressed concern over the issue and urged Beijing to discuss the matter before the new rule comes into effect because it might limit freedom of expression in the name of the fight against pornography.
Outspoken Beijing artist Ai Weiwei, who helped design the landmark Olympic Bird's Nest stadium but who has now become a vocal critic of the government, called on web users to boycott the Internet on the day of Green Dam's debut.