Google has quietly disabled a feature that notified users of its search service in China when a keyword had been censored by the Chinese government’s internet controls, according to censorship monitoring blog GreatFire.org. The blog reports that the change was made sometime between December 5 and December 8, 2012, with no official statement from Google to announce or explain its removal.
According to GreatFire.org Google has also deleted a help article which explained how to use the feature — which it says indicates that Google is self-censoring in this instance, rather than being blocked by the government (which has happened in the past). “Since the removal of the help article could only be done willingly by Google, the only explanation we see is that Google struck a deal with the Chinese government, giving in to considerable pressure to self-censor,” it writes.
We’ve reached out to Google for confirmation that it has removed its censorship notification feature for users in China, and — if it has self-censored in this instance — to ask for its reasons for doing so.
We’ll update this article with any response.Update: Google has now confirmed to TechCrunch that it has removed the notification feature. The company said it did not have a statement at this time.