Yahoo's Chinese Search Engine Found To Be Biggest Censor - InformationWeek

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Yahoo's Chinese Search Engine Found To Be Biggest Censor

A press advocacy group says Internet companies can still access the Chinese market without betraying their ethical principles, but it claims Yahoo is a big offender in censorship.

The Chinese version of Yahoo Inc.'s search engine was the worst offender in censorship tests that included rivals Google Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and local competitor Baidu, an international free press advocacy group said.

Yahoo.cn was also found to censor search results as strictly as Baidu.cn, while Google.cn and beta version of MSN.cn let through more information from sources not authorized by Chinese officials, Reporters Without Borders said.

The Paris-based group said in a statement that it was "particularly shocked" by the scale of censorship on Yahoo.cn. Search results on key words deemed "subversive" by Chinese authorities returned results that were 97 percent pro-Beijing, more than its Chinese rival Baidu.

Requesting information on certain terms, such as the date of the Tiananmen Square massacre or "Tibet independence," would cause the Yahoo.cn search tool to return an error message, the advocacy group said. As a result, the search engine would not respond to any query for about an hour. This method is not used by any other foreign search tools, but Baidu uses a similar technique.

Yahoo officials in the United States were not immediately available for comment.

The tests showed that Microsoft and Google were also filtering results. Searches for "subversive" keywords returned on average 83 percent pro-Beijing Web sites on Google.cn, and 78 percent on MSN.cn. By contrast, the same searches on uncensored search engines like Google.com produced only 28 percent of pro-Beijing sources of information.

Microsoft and Google appeared not to filter content by blocking keywords, but by refusing to include sites considered illegal by the Chinese government, the group said.

While Microsoft and Google run their own Chinese search tools, Yahoo turned over its operations last year to Chinese marketplace Alibaba.com. Yahoo, however, paid $1 billion for a 40 percent stake in the company.

Following laws that restrict access to information has become a part of doing business for Internet companies in the communist nation. As a result, some of those companies have been forced to take actions viewed unfavorably in democratic nations.

Microsoft in January, for example, took down the blog of outspoken Chinese journalist Zhao Jing, in order to comply with China's rules. Yahoo last year gave information about journalist Shi Tao's personal email account to Beijing, which later jailed him for 10 years on charges of divulging state secrets.

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