Google to China: No More Internet Censorship, or We Leave

By Andrew Moseman | January 13, 2010 10:39 am

googlechinaAre the world’s most popular search engine and the world’s most populous country headed for a breakup? That’s the word reverberating around the Internet today after Google said it would no longer put up with the Chinese government’s demands to censor the Internet and the rampant hacking attempts against it, which could result in the company ending its Chinese operations.

The announcement came as a stunning reversal for Google, which had capitulated to the government’s wishes to gain access to China’s fast-growing population of Internet users. Since arriving in 2006 under an arrangement with the government that purged its Chinese search results of banned topics, Google has come under fire for abetting a system that increasingly restricts what can be read online [The New York Times].

The standoff comes as no surprise to China watchers, however. “The idea that Google would be allowed to run an uncensored search engine would be inconsistent with everything the Chinese government has done and every single statement it has made over the past year” about the need for controls on the internet, says Rebecca MacKinnon, an expert on new media in China [Christian Science Monitor]. In fact, the news of this fight over censorship remains itself censored in China, The New York Times reports. Early reports in the Chinese news media mentioned terms like “free speech,” but those quickly disappeared.

The details of Google’s other grievance—China-based hacks against it—haven’t all come to light yet. But these sophisticated attacks against more than 30 firms, mostly Silicon Valley-based, appear to have targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese humans right activists. Perhaps that was the last straw for Google; an anonymous source told Wired.com that the company already deals with the Chinese government harassing its own people over there. “[Google is] really concerned about their safety and feels that there is a very real possibility that they will be interrogated,” the source said. “They have been [interrogated] numerous times before, and this time they could be arrested and imprisoned” [Wired.com].

What happens if Google actually breaks with Beijing? Baidu, China’s number one search engine, will benefit, but it won’t be the only one. “With the easing of competition from Google, it’s actually going to benefit everybody. The small operators now see an opportunity to gain some market share,” said Elinor Leung, an analyst at CLSA. [Wall Street Journal]. But what’s good for the market share of Chinese search engines may not be good for Chinese Internet users. Google’s pullout could hamper the fight for Web freedom there and elsewhere, leaving governments with even more power to set the rules about how much of the Internet people within their borders can see.

That’s if Google follows through on its threat and ends its Chinese operations. As the Wall Street Journal reports, an Irish betting site is already taking wagers whether the company will do it by 2012, and the odds aren’t good—the bookies seem to think China is too tempting a market to surrender.

Related Content:
80beats: Is Google the Guardian Angel of Rainforests?
80beats: Googlefest Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: 3 New Ways Google Will Take Over Your Life
80beats: China Bans Electroshock Therapy for “Internet Addiction”
80beats: China’s Internet Users Force Government to Back Down on Censorship

Image: Wikimedia Commons / M. Weitzel

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Feature, Technology
MORE ABOUT: China, Google, hackers, internet
  • Charlie

    Kudos google. China has been horribly abusive to its own people for just seeking honest information. China’s military intelligence arm hasn’t just hacked into Chineese dissidents computers, they have attacked operating systems around the globe. I hope companies like Fox news follow suit by unlatching themselves from Bejings teat.

  • http://www.louisvillecolorado-realestate.com Andrea

    I wasn’t sure how Google would finally fall on this. I’m glad to read they’ve made the decision to promote free speech.

  • pheldespat

    If I understand correctly, Google is shutting down Google.cn. google.com/ncr will still be accessible if the Great Firewall of China doesn’t cut it. This brings the possibility that Chinese people could still use Google, the full uncensored version.

  • http://www.raief.com Raief

    EXCELLENT POST. Very interesting and compelling reporting. I have to read all of the related articles now.
    I have been watching and reading about China and Google for over a year and did not know about this until I read it here.
    Great work.

  • http://www.theinternettimemachine.com Curt D

    Google and China are bringing up a 21st century battle of democracy and freedom verse Communism and restricted personal freedom. When we started using cloud computing systems we saw the HUGE area of security problems being created in cross country internet usage. Thrown in that the entire world is “outsourcing” computer stuff to Southeast Asian countries, and you have to plan for these socio-technology issues going forward. We study search demand/supply trends from around the world to find profitable niches and products. A niche, or hot predictions, is not just a demand side issue, but a supply/demand curve. If you predict IPHONE apps will take off, and there are already 100,000 aps, then you aren’t going to hit that one. If you see that demand for cell phone radiation shields is going nuts and there are only two suppliers, then you can be pretty sure that it will be a good year for those 2 supplies. The software at http://www.TheInternetTimeMachine.com studies both the demand (search volume) and supply (think “results” in Google). The Google Phone is generating much more buzz right now then say the Apple Tablet.
    Cheers,
    Curt
    Here is a video on what I mean.. http://bit.ly/SupplyDemandCurves

  • http://www.juegos.gs Juegos

    I support Google however we talk about a different country, they have another rules, their own rules.

  • http:// Patsy Arzilli

    One thing I would like to reply to is that weight loss program fast is possible by the correct diet and exercise. An individual’s size not simply affects the look, but also the actual quality of life. Self-esteem, major depression, health risks, as well as physical abilities are damaged in putting on weight. It is possible to just make everything right whilst still having a gain. If this happens, a condition may be the perpetrator. While too much food rather than enough physical exercise are usually guilty, common health concerns and popular prescriptions could greatly enhance size. Many thanks for your post here gywl512.

  • http://www.douban.com Randell Bellanger

    Appreciating the time and energy you put into your blog and in depth information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  • http://www.ttin.hk 无铅锡丝

    Do you have a spam issue on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wondering your situation; many of us have developed some nice methods and we are looking to swap methods with others, why not shoot me an e-mail if interested.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »