An Analysis of Chinese Search Engine Filtering [article]

Tao Zhu, Christopher Bronk, Dan S. Wallach
2011 arXiv   pre-print
The imposition of government mandates upon Internet search engine operation is a growing area of interest for both computer science and public policy. Users of these search engines often observe evidence of censorship, but the government policies that impose this censorship are not generally public. To better understand these policies, we conducted a set of experiments on major search engines employed by Internet users in China, issuing queries against a variety of different words: some
more » ... some with names of important people, some political, and some pornographic. We conducted these queries, in Chinese, against Baidu, Google (including google.cn, before it was terminated), Yahoo!, and Bing. We found remarkably aggressive filtering of pornographic terms, in some cases causing non-pornographic terms which use common characters to also be filtered. We also found that names of prominent activists and organizers as well as top political and military leaders, were also filtered in whole or in part. In some cases, we found search terms which we believe to be "blacklisted". In these cases, the only results that appeared, for any of them, came from a short "whitelist" of sites owned or controlled directly by the Chinese government. By repeating observations over a long observation period, we also found that the keyword blocking policies of the Great Firewall of China vary over time. While our results don't offer any fundamental insight into how to defeat or work around Chinese internet censorship, they are still helpful to understand the structure of how censorship duties are shared between the Great Firewall and Chinese search engines.
arXiv:1107.3794v1 fatcat:bvsu2dygpjagni2onc4nwgf5q4