Google Considers Leaving China If China Will Not Allow Uncensored Search

from the wow dept

Did not see this one coming at all. Four years ago, there was tremendous attention paid to Google's announcement that it was offering a search engine in China, which would censor results in accordance with Chinese law. This resulted in a massive amount of criticism directed at Google, and Google's PR response was quite weak, with waffling explanations. The company did eventually make a reasonable (to some) argument that it hoped it could effect more change from within the system, by doing things like alerting users to the fact that results were censored. However, many were still quite critical of Google's position, even as most people assumed that Google felt it had to do this just to get access to the lucrative Chinese market.

But in a surprising blog post discussing an online attack that tried to access a bunch of Gmail accounts of people seen as activists for human rights in China, Google also announced that it found the situation in China to be untenable and it would no longer censor results in China (it's at the very end -- talk about burying the lede):
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.
I have to admit that my first thought is that there's something much bigger happening behind the scenes to lead to this. I doubt that this decision came out of some hackers trying to access Gmail accounts. The real question is what China does now -- and whether either side is bluffing?
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Filed Under: censorship, china, hacking
Companies: google

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  1. identicon
    Liz, 13 Jan 2010 @ 3:26am

    One large company refuses to do business in China. Others may (but probably won't) follow Google's lead. Yes, Google will remain on the internet. And people will bypass the Great Firewall through proxies, spoofing their IP addresses, and a multitude of other tricks.

    Google removing it's physical presence from China will mean loss of revenue, loss of local jobs, and loss of control for the Chinese government over some operating aspect of a foreign corporation.

    It isn't like Wal-Mart, Mattel, or Nike who made themselves dependent on cheap labor and goods to maintain their bottom line. Google is an internet resource that that built and maintains their presence in the virtual world. However, if Google can break away from the largest, fastest growing economy, I'd wonder who else could?

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