Google has stopped warning Chinese Internet users that some of the words they might search for could see them kicked off the Internet.
Google had been offering users a warning if they searched for terms including "Freedom", and whenever someone in China had made such a move would tell them that their Internet connection could be interrupted.
The firm ceased issuing the warnings in early December, according to a report from Chinese censorship monitoring group Greatfire.org, and has removed supporting information from its about pages.
This raises the question of why. Greatfire speculates that it might be due to pressure from the glorious Chinese government.
The Chinese government employs what is called the Great Firewall of China, and controls its citizens' use of the internet with a firm hand. Greatfire speculates that Google, which was immune to Chinese government pressure, could have decided to censor itself.
"What could be the reason for Google to switch off their smart anti-censorship function and at the same time delete the help article about the same function? The developers who painstakingly constructed it only half a year ago must have screamed in protest," it said in a blog post. "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."
Google would not divulge a reason or comment, but a spokesperson confirmed the removal of the feature.
Google and China do not have a particularly friendly relationship. Google accused the country of hacking into or interfering with Gmail, its email service, and when it launched this now-gone feature in May it looked like it was ready to fight the country on all fronts.
China's line is that Google should butt out of its business.
"Google's accusations aimed at China are spurious, have ulterior motives, and bear malign intentions," is the official line delivered through the China People's Daily. "Google should not become overly embroiled in international political struggle, playing the role of a tool for political contention. For when the international winds shift direction, it may become sacrificed to politics and will be spurned by the marketplace."
It seems that Google might have started to hear what China has been saying.
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