Internet users in China received warning messages
on Friday for hundreds of Google searches after the U.S. web search
giant changed its policy on censorship.
"We've observed that searching for 'peacehall' in mainland China may temporarily break your connection to Google," said a Google message in response to one search.
"This interruption is outside Google's control," the message said.
Peacehall is the name of a well-known Chinese dissident website based in the United States.
At least 450 other search terms in Chinese and English generated similar warning messages on Friday, online activist Wen Yunchao reported on Twitter.
Before Friday, Google had given only vague warnings that some search results were not shown, saying "This webpage is not available" or "The connection was reset."
Its new policy means that terms banned on the internet in China are revealed more openly, potentially embarrassing government censors.
Google said it analysed 350,000 popular searches in China and found that when Chinese users entered banned terms, they were usually blocked from Google for at least one minute.
"We've noticed that these interruptions are closely correlated with searches for a particular subset of queries," Alan Eustace, Google's senior vice president, said in a Google blog post.
"So starting today we'll notify users in mainland China when they enter a keyword that may cause connection issues," Eustace said.
"By prompting people to revise their queries, we hope to reduce these disruptions and improve our user experience from mainland China," he said.
A search for the Chinese character for river, which is also the surname of former leader Jiang Zemin, spurred another warning message.
Jiang's name has been linked with online rumours of factional in-fighting in the ruling Communist Party ahead of a leadership change this autumn.
Other problematic Google searches included the Dalai Lama, jasmine, rightist, People's Park, square, 1989, June 4, Egypt and Tunisia, Wen reported.
Google has diverted its Google.cn site to a Hong Kong site since January 2010, after saying the company had been the target of a sophisticated cyber-attack originating in China.
In response to the attack, Google said it would stop abiding by Chinese censorship requests that it had honoured since opening its China-based search site in 2006.
China's estimated number of internet users has mushroomed in recent years to more than 500 million, or about 40 per cent of the country's population.
The government and internet firms employ thousands of online censors, and block access to Twitter, Facebook and other international social media services.
Its surveillance tools include keyword filters and close monitoring of micro-blogs and phone numbers used by known activists.
Most Popular Stories
- Airport Garners Social Media Award
- Social Media Campaign Increases Organ Donor Registrations
- World Bank: Rich Countries Must Curb Emissions
- Intel Working on Smartwatch; Mum on Possible Apple Link
- Using Acids to Unlock Shale Oil OK, Regulator Says
- Patriots' Aaron Hernandez Questioned in Slaying
- Fed Will Keep Buying Bonds for Now; Markets Dip
- Banks Don't Follow Rules in Mortgage Settlement
- NHU, Canada College Partner on B.A. in Child Development
- Tea Party Wants to 'Audit the IRS'