This is a huge story of long term international significance. Google has announced on its corporate blog that it will no longer consent to censoring its search engine results in China, and if necessary will pull out of China. 

This follows the discovery of a consistent and high level security breach from inside China aimed at accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists both within the country and abroad. The breach affects not just Google, but other companies operating within China. The US authorities are now investigating with Google’s cooperation.

China is, of course, potentially the most significant media market in the world. Google compromised when it went in some years ago, by agreeing to censor search engine results. At the time, this caused much cynicism about the Google corporate motto: Don’t Be Evil.

Now, Google has decided the compromise has become untenable.

Says Google:

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.

If Google pulls out, or in the unlikely scenario that it forces a more open approach on the Chinese Government, the implications will be very far reaching indeed.

Google v China. Wow.

I will be trying to find out more about this. Watch this space.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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