Google may be headed for a fresh stand-off with the Chinese government over web censorship, after amending its search service to inform mainland users which keywords appear to be filtered.
The company has implemented a new function into its Hong Kong search site to identify the terms that may trigger China's internet filter the Wall Street Journal reports. Users are informed through a drop-down box that using these search terms may cause service disruptions.
Google claims that users in China are regularly getting error messages or connection time-outs when attempting to search for the filtered terms, and that these interruptions are outside of the company's control. While Google seems to be being careful not to explicitly mention censorship or blame official filtering for the time-outs, analysts believe the company risks antagonizing Chinese internet authorities again.
Google’s most famous battle with Chinese authorities came in 2010, when it revealed it would no longer censor search results from mainland China, and began redirecting queries to its Hong Kong site. The decision led to speculation that China would refuse to renew Google's operating license, and that the company may have to shutter its mainland operations.
While Google remains in operation in China, the company has repeatedly accused authorities of disrupting its services including search and email. Perhaps as a result of the disruptions, the company's market share in China has fallen from around 36% in 4Q09 to 17% in the first quarter this year, according to Analysys International research quoted by the Journal.