Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Google relaxes self-censorship in China

January 14, 2010

By Jo Kent, CNN
January 13, 2010

Beijing, China (CNN) -- Within hours of Google's announcement that it was no
longer willing to self-censor in China, Google.cn was retrieving results for
sensitive topics including the 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square, the Dalai
Lama and the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Previously, a search for "Tiananmen" would only return images of the square
itself. By early Wednesday, Google.cn linked to pages with information about
the bloody government crackdown in 1989, though the page appears to have
fluctuated between uncensored and somewhat censored throughout Wednesday.

Google said it was rolling back its self-censorship this week in a move that
seems to indicate that -- despite attempts to build strong government
relations and retool its own stated ethics -- the search engine has finally
had enough of doing business the China way.

Do you think Google should leave China?

The tipping point came after what Google calls "sophisticated" cyber attacks
originating from within China, targeting G-mail accounts of Chinese human
rights activists. The company says the attacks "have led us to conclude that
we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China."

Video: Google threatens to exit China

Video: Chinese search engine hacked RELATED TOPICS Google Inc.
China In an official blog post issued Wednesday, Google's chief legal
officer David Drummond said the company was "...No longer willing to
continue censoring our results on Google.cn...This may well mean having to
shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

Later in the day, employees in Google's Beijing office were reportedly put
on paid leave. Security was unusually tight. Employees reported they were
unable to access many of the internal resources usually available from
Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Several Google users and fans gathered in front of the company's China
headquarters in northwest Beijing to express support for Internet freedom. A
large number of flower deliveries were made to the company throughout the
day, which Chinese bloggers interpreted as a symbol of mourning of the
potential closing of Google China.

Liu Zheng, a 22-year-old Google user who made the trip, voiced his
disappointment. "If Google leaves China, it is likely to be seen as an
advancement of censorship, a success and a step forward for Internet
oppression."

Google has not directly accused the Chinese government of being involved in
the cyber attacks. It says it will seek negotiations over the next few weeks
to determine whether it is possible to continue to operate within China.

Experts say the latest developments and potential exit from China is not
surprising. Jeremy Goldkorn, China Internet analyst and founder of
Danwei.org, said: "Google has been subject to an inordinate amount of
harassment in China over the past year, ranging from blocking and
interruption of services like Google Documents and G-mail that are not
hosted in China, to state-owned broadcaster CCTV accusing [Google] of being
propagators of pornography."

He adds: "The last six months have seen a huge increase of censorship on
domestic sites and a noticeable attitude by the Chinese government saying
they don't really care what foreigners think.

"I imagine the Chinese government's reaction is going to be 'Well, if you
don't like our laws, get lost.'"

Goldkorn's site, Danwei.org, is a popular site on Chinese news, media and
urban life in English, which is blocked in mainland China.

Known for its slogan "don't do evil," Google's new position drew praise from
supporters of free speech, who in the past have been critical of the search
engine for agreeing to government censorship as a condition for opening its
doors in China.

"They've revisited the idea of censorship and the price they're paying is
too high," says Roseann Rife of Amnesty International. "By pointing this out
now, Google is a great example and it needs to be discussed in other
corporations, in other board rooms."

Google, which launched its China-based search engine in 2006, has struggled
for business in China since its inception. The Google.cn filter, which
returns censored search results, was created after the original form of the
U.S.-based search engine was routinely slowed or blocked by China's Internet
controls.

At the time, the company hoped that by cooperating with the government,
Chinese users could provide a fast search engine for a large mainland
market.

Still, Google is dwarfed by Baidu.com, the leading Chinese search engine
which dominates the majority of the search market in mainland China.
According to a September 2009 survey by state-run China Internet Network
Information Center, 13 percent of Chinese Internet users prefer Google
whereas Baidu was the first choice for 77 percent.

If Google eventually exits China, it would be a decision that could come
with enormous financial cost. This country has more than 300 million
Internet users, more than any other. The Internet advertising market in
China is seen as one of the most important and fastest growing in the world.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank