Google has purchased a minority stake in a Chinese company with ties to Israel that makes the Maxthon Browser, a popular browser in China that can be used to funnel traffic through a Web proxy to circumvent government controls on information in search engines like Google and Yahoo.
Tech blog site TechCrunch cites multiple sources in reporting that Google has invested $1 million as part of a larger strategic deal between the companies. No comment yet from Maxthon or Google yet.
"At the very least we expect the strategic deal to involve replacing the default search option in the browser from the Baidu search engine in China and Yahoo in other countries with Google search," the TechCrunch post says. "The deal may also go beyond search and involve integration with other Google services directly into the browser. Maxthon would then be promoted on Google as a preferred browser."
Free speech advocates in the U.S. are highly critical of Web censorship rules Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have complied with in order to enter the market in China. The companies claim they need to abide by the local regulations in order to do business there, but critics complain that their actions are landing innocent people in jail, including one journalist who received a 10-year prison sentence after Yahoo handed information over to the government.