A New Approach to China from Google

A lot of my fellow bloggers are talking today about the fact that Google announced yesterday that they were ending censorship in China. The decision followed a cyber attack it believes was aimed at gathering information on Chinese human rights activists. Some security experts reckon that the attack must have been sizeable and worrying for Google to engage in this kind of brinkmanship.”For Google to pull up stakes and basically pull out of China, the attack must have been large in scope and very penetrating,” James Mulvenon an expert on Chinese cyberwarfare capabilities told the New York Times. The move follows a clampdown on the internet in China over the last year, which has seen sites and social networking services hosted overseas blocked – including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – and the closure of many sites at home. Chinese authorities ­criticised Google for supplying “vulgar” content in results.

Google acknowledged that the decision “may well mean” the closure of Google.cn and its offices in China.
More info on Google official blog
“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.”

Clearly, It could have been damaging for Google if news of the breach had emerged later and it appeared the company had done nothing. Google has only a third of the search-engine market in China, which is dominated by the Chinese giant Baidu. Although its revenues have continued to rise, many analysts believed it was finding business hard going. In June Google suffered intensive disruption to search functions and Gmail for over an hour, after authorities told it to scale back search functions. Google’s decision to launch the censored service was highly controversial at the time. It was attacked by campaigners and accused of “sickening collaboration” in a Congressional hearing.

For Google, it could be argued that there is a lot to be gained from this situation.Given that it is highly unlikely that China will relax the rules for Google, a mountain of great publicity awaits for the search giant taking such a strong stance after years of criticism. It is an interesting game moving forward and both sides have yet to play their hand.

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