Since 2006, Google has been a champion of the censorship battle enforced upon Chinese searchers by the Chinese government, however it seems that Google has now conceded defeat.
Censorship monitoring blog Greatfire.org reports that Google has 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
For example, if a searcher used the term “freedom” in a Google search, they would get a pop-up warning from Google that said, “We’ve observed that searching for [freedom] in mainland China may break your connection to Google for a short while. This interruption is outside of Google’s control,” and it would give the person the option to change the search term or search anyway.
Greatfire says that the warning was disabled sometime between 5th and 8th December and while Google has confirmed the move they have told TechCrunch that they have no statement to make in regards to it. Although Josh Halliday from The Guardian quotes a source in China that said Google concluded it was “counterproductive” to continue the fight.
Along with the warning message, Google have also deleted a help article, which gave more details on how to use the feature. Greatfire speculates that:
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.
Experts suggest Google pulled the feature because it was making it more difficult for users to access its search services. The feature was originally conceived to counteract Chinese government Internet controls, which were reportedly blocking access to Google search for 90 seconds if a user attempted to search for a banned word.
Since launching the search feature in May last year, it has been disabled multiple times by Chinese authorities each time Google finding a way to bring the warning back, but I guess now Google has decided it isn’t worth the fight.