Google stops censoring Chinese search services


23 Mar 2010

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Google has stopped censoring its search services on its Chinese site, Google.cn, lining itself up for a showdown with the Chinese authorities.

The company announced yesterday that users of its Google.cn website are being redirected to Hong Kong where it is offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, which it said is specifically designed for users in mainland China and is being delivered via its servers in Hong Kong.

Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk, the search giant said.

However, Google noted that due to the increased load on its Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as everything is switched over.

Google threatened Chinese withdrawal

Google threatened to withdraw from China back in January when it emerged that the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists had been hacked.

Google also said it had discovered that at least 20 other large companies across a wide range of businesses, including the internet, finance, technology, media and chemical industries, were targeted in the attack.

While the US company did not directly accuse the Chinese government of being behind the attacks, it said it was no longer willing to censor the search results on its Chinese site, which the government requires, adding it recognised that this “may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China”.

New approach a sensible solution

Google said that figuring out how to make good on its promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn was hard.

"We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced — it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China,” said Google SVP of corporate development and chief legal officer David Drummond yesterday on the official Google blog.

“We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services. We will therefore be carefully monitoring access issues, and have created this new web page, which we will update regularly each day, so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China,” he added.

Drummond said Google intends to continue its R&D work in China and to maintain a sales presence there, although it said that the size of its sales team there will be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk.

He added that all of the decisions Google had taken in relation to its Chinese operations were driven and implemented by its executives in the US, and that none of its employees in China “can, or should, be held responsible for them”.

Photo – Jens Schott Knudsen

Article courtesy of Businessandleadership.com

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