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This week in Google

Google launched versions of its search and news Web sites in China that censor material deemed objectionable to authorities there.

Google launched new versions of its search and news Web sites in China that censor material deemed objectionable to authorities there, reasoning that limited access to content is better than none. Google said the new local site would include notes at the bottom of results pages that disclose when content has been removed.

"Google.cn will comply with local Chinese laws and regulations," Google said in a statement. "In deciding how best to approach the Chinese--or any--market, we must balance our commitments to satisfy the interest of users, expand access to information and respond to local conditions."

Google is not the only U.S. search firm targeted with complaints about censorship in China. Earlier this month, Microsoft admitted removing the blog of an outspoken Chinese journalist from its MSN Spaces site, citing its policy of adhering to local laws. Last June, Microsoft acknowledged censoring words like "freedom" and "democracy" from its Chinese MSN portal site.

Many CNET News.com readers expressed outrage at the move by Google.

"This is morally reprehensible, and demonstrates an appalling lack of civic leadership by the principles of Google and these other companies," Brad Aisa wrote in CNET's TalkBack forum.

However, Google's new China search engine not only censors many Web sites that question the Chinese government, but it goes further than similar services from Microsoft and Yahoo by targeting teen pregnancy, homosexuality, dating and other topics. In addition, despite a promise to inform users when their search results are censored, the company frequently filters out sites without revealing that it's doing so.

Some of the blackballing appeared to be a mistake. The University of Pennsylvania's entire engineering school server--which hosted one Falun Gong site--was blocked from Google's Google.cn China site. So was an Essex County Web site, which sports the word "sex"--as in "Essex"--in its domain name. Google.cn also doesn't display search.msn.com to someone who's hunting for the rival Microsoft service.