Search Monitor: Toward a Measure of Transparency

29 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2008

See all articles by Nart Villeneuve

Nart Villeneuve

University of Toronto - Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Date Written: July 9, 2008


This report interrogates and compares the censorship practices of the search engines provided by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! for the Chinese market along with the domestic Chinese search engine Baidu. This report finds that although Internet users in China are able to access more information due to the presence of foreign search engines the web sites that are censored are often the only sources of alternative information available for politically sensitive topics. In addition to censoring the web sites of Chinese dissidents and the Falun Gong movement, the web sites of major news organizations, such as the BBC, as well as international advocacy organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, are also censored. The data presented in this report indicates that there is not a comprehensive system - such as a list issued by the Chinese government - in place for determining censored content. In fact, the evidence suggests that search engine companies themselves are selecting the specific web sites to be censored raising the possibility of over blocking as well as indicating that there is significant flexibility in choosing how to implement China's censorship requirements. Finally, this report finds that search engine companies maintain an overall low level of transparency regarding their censorship practices and concludes that independent monitoring is required to evaluate their compliance with public pledges regarding commitments to transparency and human rights.

Keywords: Censorship China Search Engines Corporate Social Responsibilty

Suggested Citation

Villeneuve, Nart, Search Monitor: Toward a Measure of Transparency (July 9, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Nart Villeneuve (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy ( email )

Toronto, Ontario

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics