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 Google.cn, 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 Google.cn, 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?