Google stops Chinese search censorship
Google has stopped censoring its Chinese search results, bringing an end to its two-month stand-off with the Chinese Government.
The search giant has closed its Google.cn service, and is redirecting traffic to its uncensored Hong Kong-based search engine, Google.com.hk, where visitors are greeted by the message: “Welcome to Google search in China’s new home.”
The action comes just months after Google threatened to pull out of China, claiming hackers based in the country had infiltrated its network and the email accounts of dissidents and human-rights advocates.
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Google claims the compromise is legal, but admitted the Government could still shut down the site.”Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard,” said Google chief legal officer David Drummond on the Google blog.
“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.
Acknowledging, that the Chinese Government may disagree on the legality of the action, Drummond stressed that “all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the US, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them.”
Despite earlier threats to leave mainland China entirely, Drummond confirmed Google’s R&D and sales operations will continue, though their future is dependent on Google.com.hk staying open – suggesting the search giant isn’t done bargaining with the Chinese Government.
The decision not to censor results was welcomed by Amnesty International, a long-time critic of Beijing’s attitude towards the internet.
“This lays down the gauntlet to other internet companies operating in China: to be transparent about what filtering and censorship the government requires them to do,” said UK Director Kate Allen. “And to stand up for free speech where they can, using legal appeals and other judicial measures.”
China has slammed the move as totally wrong, and accused Google of “politicising commercial issues.”
“Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks,” a Government official told China’s Xinhua news service.
“This is totally wrong. We’re uncompromisingly opposed to the politicisation of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts,” he concluded.