January 13, 2010
Google says No Further Censorship of Chinese Search Results
Google yesterday announced it will no longer censor search results in China. While the move has been hailed by human rights groups, Google's decision might cost the search giant its right to operate within the dictatorial People's Republic. By no longer censoring search results at the request of the Chinese government, Google may well be preparing to abandon the largest and most expansive Internet market in the world. Google says it decided to cease censoring search results after learning of a series of "sophisticated and targeted attacks" emanating from inside China which targeted Google's intellectual property. Google went on to suggest at least 20 other large US based tech firms were also targeted in the series of hack attacks. In a post written by its Chief Legal Officer on its blog, Google said they have evidence suggesting, "the primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists." While Google assures that none of the direct attacks where successful, their investigation noted a pattern of third party access to, "the accounts of dozens of US, China and European based Gmail users who were advocates of human rights in China." The company moved to assure Gmail users that these attacks were generated via spyware and not through cracking the Gmail system itself. Repeated incidents of Chinese surveillance come after a year in which the Chinese Government extended its attempts to limit freedom on speech within China and internationally, building conditions which pushed Google to, "... review the feasibility of our business operations in China." Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State expressed her "serious concerns" regarding Chinese hacking of US based corporations saying, "We look to the Chinese government for an explanation". The Chinese government moved quickly to limit access to information on Google's decision in China yesterday by decreeing only two state controlled media outlets be allowed to run the story. According to California based China Digital Times, the government run newspapers Xinhua, along with the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, The People's Daily were allowed to publish details under very strict conditions. Chinese restrictions on information did nothing to stop the Twittersphere from exploding with messages from within and around China using the hashtag #GoogleCN. Translated and published in the China Digital Times, the tweets generally condemn the Chinese government for forcing Google's decision. According to one of those Tweets, the Chinese government has blocked the Official Google Blog and republished a sanitized version of Google's announcement. (note: We have been unable to confirm the content of this post) Google first opened offices in China in 2006. At that time, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin promised to constantly review the state of the company's business operations in China. At that time, the company suggested it was better for Google to offer some form of Internet search in China rather than none at all. Though it has struggled to become the most used search engine in China, it remains a distant second to the Chinese web portal Baidu, a company Google used to hold a small stake in. A pull out from China will not bring heavy financial hit to Google today though Google does risk losing out on potentially enormous growth as the Chinese Internet market expands. Perhaps the best comment on the situation comes from Twitter user @hecaitou who wrote, "After Google leaves China, the world’s top three websites on Alexa —Google, Facebook and Youtube are all blocked in China. This is not an issue of Google abandoning China, but one of China abandoning the world. #googlecn" Google said it would spend the coming days negotiating with the Chinese government over its operations in the People's Republic. The results of those discussions will spell the future of the Chinese Internet.