[LINK] Google Ends Censorship In China

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Thu Jan 14 11:34:17 AEDT 2010

Tom writes,

> > Google Ends Censorship In China...
> I was just interviewed about this by ABC Sunshine Coast Radio ..

Good on you, Tom. America is treating the matter as quite important for
example, it's the lead item for the New York Times technology section &
complete with a Hilary Clinton quote. Almost an international incident.

'Google’s Threat Echoed Everywhere, Except China' 

Published: January 13, 2010 www.nytimes.com/pages/technology/index.html

BEIJING — Google’s declaration that it would stop cooperating with 
Chinese Internet censorship and consider shutting down its operations in 
the country ricocheted around the world Wednesday. But in China itself, 
the news was heavily censored.

Some big Chinese news portals initially carried a short dispatch on 
Google’s announcement, but that account soon tumbled from the headlines, 
and later reports omitted Google’s references to “free speech” 
and “surveillance.”

The only government response came later in the day from Xinhua, the 
official news agency, which ran a brief item quoting an anonymous 
official who was “seeking more information on Google’s statement that it 
could quit China.”

Google linked its decision to sophisticated cyberattacks on its computer 
systems that it suspected originated in China and that were aimed, at 
least in part, at the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

In a statement, the United States secretary of state, Hillary Rodham 
Clinton, expressed “serious concerns” about the infiltration of Google. 

“We look to the Chinese government for an explanation,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Outside the company’s gleaming offices in Beijing, a trickle of young 
people laid floral bouquets and notes at the multicolored sign bearing 
the Google logo. As daylight faded, two 18-year-old law students 
approached with a bottle of rice liquor and lit two candles. One of the 
students said that she wanted to make a public gesture of support for 
Google, which steadily has lost market share to Baidu, a Chinese-run 
company that has close ties with the government.

“The government should give people the right to see what they want 
online,” said the woman, Bing, who withheld her full name for fear that 
it might cause her problems at school. “The government can’t always tell 
lies to the people.”

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 

Google said the attacks took place last week and were directed at about 
34 companies or entities, most of them in Silicon Valley in California, 
according to people with knowledge of Google’s investigation. The 
attackers may have penetrated elaborate computer security systems and 
obtained crucial corporate data and software source codes, though Google 
said it did not itself suffer losses of that kind.

While the scope of the hacking and the motivations and identities of the 
hackers remained uncertain, Google’s response amounted to an unambiguous 
repudiation of its five-year courtship of the Chinese market, which most 
major multinational companies consider crucial to growth. It is also 
likely to enrage the Chinese authorities, who deny that they censor the 
Internet and are accustomed to having major foreign companies adapt their 
practices to Chinese norms.

On Wednesday afternoon, the software maker Adobe Systems, announced that 
it, too, had endured a cyberattack. While it did not provide details 
about the assault, which took place earlier this month, the company said 
was investigating.

On Wall Street on Wednesday, Google’s shares were down about one percent, 
to $584.18.

If news of Google’s threat to quit China was largely muffled, there was 
some back-and-forth on message boards and a torrent of Twitter 
commentary — accessible only to those able to circumvent the Great 

“It’s not Google that’s withdrawing from China, it’s China that’s 
withdrawing from the world,” read one message.

While many comments mourned the prospect of Google’s departure, others, 
including Rao Jin, the founder of the Web forum Anti-CNN.com, expressed 
suspicion over the announcement. 

Mr. Rao, known for defending China’s stances on issues like Tibet and 
Xinjiang against Western media criticism, said he thought Google made its 
decision under pressure from Mrs. Clinton, who met with Google’s chief 
executive last week as part of an effort to promote Internet freedom 
around the world.

“I think Google’s departure from Chinese market would be a big loss to 
Google, though not as big a loss to China because Baidu and other search 
engines are still rising,” Mr. Rao said in an interview. “Any company in 
China has to abide by Chinese rules, even though there are some times 
when the rules may not be not so reasonable.”

Hecaitou, a prominent blogger based in Beijing, also applauded the 
company’s announcement, although for different reasons. The possibility 
of Google leaving China, he said, would send a message to Chinese leaders 
intent on imposing greater restrictions online. Or at least he hoped it 

“In the short term, the Internet environment will be very cold,” he 
said. “But for the government to close the door and revert to 30 years 
ago is hard to imagine. If they want to go forward on the information 
highway, they’ll have to listen to others.”

If Google does leave, it would be an unusual rebuke of China by one of 
the largest and most admired technology companies, which had for years 
coveted the country’s 300 million Web users. Google said it would try to 
negotiate a new arrangement to provide uncensored results on its search 
site, google.cn. But that is highly unlikely in a country that has the 
most sweeping Web filtering system in the world. Google said it would 
otherwise cease to run google.cn and would consider shutting its offices 
in China, where it employs about 700 people, many of them well-paid 
software engineers, and has an estimated $300 million a year in revenue.

(Page 2 of 2)

Google executives would not discuss in detail their reasons for 
overturning their China strategy. But despite a costly investment, the 
company has a much smaller share of the search market here than it does 
in other major markets, commanding about one in three searches by 

Google executives have privately fretted that the decision to censor the 
search results on google.cn, to filter out topics banned by Chinese 
censors, was out of sync with the company’s motto, “Don’t be evil.”

“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,” David 
Drummond, senior vice president for corporate development and the chief 
legal officer, said in a statement. 

Wenqi Gao, a spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in New York, said he did 
not see any problems with google.cn. “I want to reaffirm that China is 
committed to protecting the legitimate rights and interests of foreign 
companies in our country,” he said in a phone interview.

In China, search requests that include words like “Tiananmen Square 
massacre” or “Dalai Lama” come up blank. In recent months, the government 
has also blocked YouTube, Google’s video-sharing service. 

While Google’s business in China is small, analysts say that the country 
could soon become one of the most lucrative Internet and mobile markets, 
and a withdrawal would significantly reduce Google’s long-term growth.

“The consequences of not playing the China market could be very big for 
any company, but particularly for an Internet company that makes its 
money from advertising,” said David B. Yoffie, a Harvard Business School 

Mr. Yoffie said advertising played an even bigger role in the Internet in 
China than it did in the United States. At the time of its arrival, 
Google said that it believed that the benefits of its presence in China 
outweighed the downside of being forced to censor some search results, as 
it would provide more information and openness to Chinese citizens. The 
company, however, has repeatedly said that it would monitor restrictions 
in China.

Google’s announcement Tuesday drew praise from free speech and human 
rights advocates, many of whom had criticized the company over its 
decision to enter the Chinese market.

Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at the Open Society Institute and an expert 
on the Chinese Internet, said that Google had endured repeated harassment 
in recent months and that by having operations in China it potentially 
risked the security of its users in China. She said many Chinese 
dissidents used Gmail because its servers are hosted overseas and that it 
offered extra encryption.

“Unless they turn themselves into a Chinese company, Google could not 
win,” she said. “The company has clearly put its foot down and said 
enough is enough.”

In the past year, Google has been increasingly constricted by the Chinese 
government. In June, after briefly blocking access nationwide to its main 
search engine and other services like Gmail, the government forced the 
company to disable a function that lets the search engine suggest terms. 
At the time, the government said it was simply seeking to remove 
pornographic material from the search engine results. 

Some Google executives suggested then that the campaign was a concerted 
effort to stain the company’s image. Since its entry into China, the 
company has steadily lost market share to Baidu. 

> While the 
> Google announcement does not so in plain language, Google is clearly 
> accusing the Chinese government of attacking its systems. Google has 
> about one third of Chinese search revenue and this is a significant 
> market to give up. What might be also significant is the effect on 
> of the loss of access to Google, if the Chinese government decides to 
> block the site. It will be an interesting economic experiment to see 
> quickly other companies move in to fill the vacuum and if the lack of 
> Google impedes the Chinese economy.
> ps: I had top declare my interest in the radio interview, as I have 
> Google AdSense advertising on my web pages and earn money from them.
> More at: 
> <http://www.tomw.net.au/blog/2010/01/google-ceasing-censorship-due-
> -- 
> Tom Worthington FACS HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
> PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au
> Adjunct Lecturer, The Australian National University t: 02 61255694
> Computer Science http://cs.anu.edu.au/people.php?StaffID=140274

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