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Is Google at War with China?

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Yesterday, Google announced that the launch of two new mobile phones in China has been delayed, which shows that what started with Google threatening to stop censoring it's Google.cn search engine due to a hacker attack originating from China, has now spilled out into bigger business considerations.

Also, if you use autocomplete with Google, and type in 'China is' you get:

1) China is communist.
2) China is a threat.

And if you search 'Google leaves China,' a Google ad on top appears that says: Read our public response to recent security issues...

The response goes on to say that, "We have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Google goes on to say:

We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. 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. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

While few expect China to back down and suddenly support freedom of speech on the internet or in the press, some are hoping that it will at least make companies think twice before doing business in China. The only clear winner so far is Microsoft and it's fledgling Windows Mobile.

On the Forum last Friday I asked about China v. Google, someone responded:

A friend of mine in China tells me that as of now, Google.cn is still operating as usual, as in still censoring search results. She also told me that since Google is a minor player in China, and since all search engines are censored, Google's exit will not change a thing.
I tend to agree with her assessment. I just don't see the Chinese government will budge on this issue, especially since Google allowed its protestation to manifest in such a dramatic and public manner (something about giving face is important).

ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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