Google Plans to Cease Content Censoring in China, Threatens to Exit Market

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Google has said it intends to stop censoring online content in China, even if it means that it has to leave the world's largest market. In a blog post, the company said that it made the decision after being subjected to a, "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China," an attack aimed at accessing the accounts of Chinese dissidents.

"We have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective," David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer for Google, said in the blog post.

The attackers were able to compromise two accounts, but Google said it was limited to data such as creation dates for the accounts and the subject lines of e-mails - the body of the e-mails in the account were not accessed by the bad guys according to the company.

Google's post does not directly accuse the Chinese government of being behind the attack, but does make it clear that these actions have pushed the company to remember its own motto of "Do no evil," if not in so many words.

"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," the company wrote. "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."

To that end, Google is no longer willing to censor content, and is in discussion with the government in China on how it can operate within the country without such censorship. If it can not, the company said, "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

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Comments

Bryan Chaffin

And I say good for them!

Intruder

My guess is that it will mean that Google will exit China. The government is paranoid enough about unrestrained access to information being available to their population. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

zahadum

wow.

I am really impressed.

Frankly, I thought google had sold out.

Now the next question will be whether apple will also follow google’s couragous lead, and stop censoring material about Tibet (and the dalai lama) on iTunes!

Cisco & msft—well, those are hopeless causes to begin with! (not a shred of corporate decency).

Mace

Baidu would be very happy.

AceNet-Alan

Impressive move for a US company that is searching to globalize it’s product.

Tiger

They tried, got slapped in the face a few too many times. Time to stop turning the other cheek Google. Exit and exit fast.  I’d love to see a lot of US companies exit China and actually start making products here in this country again. Is there a single television made in the USA any more? I’m not a dyed in the wool protectionist, but I’d like to see some good old American gumption and competitiveness coming out of the corporate world instead of this cut and run attitude that has nearly outsourced our nation.

Krioni

Then, once you’re out of China, work as hard as you can on helping build tools for Chinese people to bypass the “Great Firewall.”

doogie

I suspect that the Chinese people gain more from having Google (even with censorship) than not having Google at all.

I’m all for free speech, and generally opposed to censorship, but I suspect that overwhelming their attempts to censor everything with more information conduits is a better long term strategy for freeing the Chinese people of this burden than withholding it until they fix their government.

Who knows?  Perhaps Google exiting China will cause the oppressed masses to rise up and throw the bums in Beijing out.

Maybe Google is simply uncomfortable with being a tool for spying on Chinese citizens.

Or maybe Baidu is drinking Google’s milkshake.

xmattingly

I?d like to see some good old American gumption and competitiveness coming out of the corporate world

Ditto. Our government’s lack of intervention to corporate mass-outsourcing - especially in the face of such high unemployment, as well as non-existent tax incentives to businesses who keep their resources in the states does not help the matter.

stateside

Now the next question will be whether apple will also follow google?s couragous lead, and stop censoring material about Tibet (and the dalai lama) on iTunes!

Google can abandon China and suffer little more than a dent in their growth timetable.

Apple? Leaving China means they’d better have contingency plans for getting their hardware sourced and assembled.  Good luck getting a flatscreen without the “Made in China” label…

sippincider

  1263375553 said:

  I?d like to see some good old American gumption and competitiveness coming out of the corporate world

Ditto. Our government?s lack of intervention to corporate mass-outsourcing - especially in the face of such high unemployment, as well as non-existent tax incentives to businesses who keep their resources in the states does not help the matter.

Haven’t you heard?  Wall Street and our elites tell us that out sourcing is good; if someone loses their job they can learn to do something else.

</sarcasm>

What they fail to mention is how useful those outsourced jobs would be in an economy of 10+ percent unemployment.  Or what the benefits of outsourcing THEIR jobs would be.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I think a lot of you guys just hate Chinese people and Indian people. There’s no other explanation for protectionism. It is horrible economic and foreign policy. It caused a frigging depression by severely depressing regions that depended on exports, particularly in agriculture and automobiles, causing regional bank runs that then infected the entire banking system.

None of you want to pay 1990 prices in 2010 dollars for computing equipment. I just wish you’d educate yourself about the stupidity of protectionism before waving it like a 4 inch phallus.

That said, if Google’s stand against Chinese government interference furthers Google’s goals, then good for Google. One could draw a parallel to Nokia going nuclear against Apple in the US market. Nokia’s actions obviously have regional (US market) downside for Nokia, but probably have global upside for the company.

geoduck

I’m quite surprised. As I’ve posted elsewhere I don’t expect corporations to do the right thing. When they do it’s a nice surprise.

Of course this is as much a response to China doing nasty things to them. I wonder if China is trying to push Google out to make room for their own search engine (and controls).

doogie

What was the name of that search engine from an oft-maligned company that’s trying to gain market share?

Opportunity for a company who’s motto is not, “Don’t be evil.”

xmattingly

Or what the benefits of outsourcing THEIR jobs would be.

Right. Ask Gannett News Corp how many executives received pay cuts in addition to voluntary (forced) layoffs vis a vis their massive outsourcing effort, and I’m sure you’ll get a room full of suits who would just shrug their shoulders and wave you off.

other side

I think a lot of you guys just hate Chinese people and Indian people. There?s no other explanation for protectionism.

Oh PLEASE.  Nice try at playing the race card.

This is about survival.  Why should anyone stand for being sent home to face financial ruin and possibly starvation, while their job gets sent to the other side of the globe in the name of money?  Even Scrooge wasn’t that cold.

I’d happily pay 1990 PC prices in 2010 dollars, if it meant getting a quality product and keeping the unemployment rate down. (And speaking of quality Apple’s old-school hardware was legendary; my 1990-vintage Apple II still works.  Where will a 2010 iPhone be in 20 years?)

Anyway by the time this recession (collapse?) is over, it’s gonna be far more costly than what keeping those jobs here would ever have been.

Lancashire-Witch

And I say good for them!

Good for who? - probably not the “Chinese human rights activists”.
Will their email accounts be more secure with Baidu? Assuming they are allowed to have one.

Maybe Google should not have agreed to filter in the first place.

Bryan Chaffin

Bryan Chaffin said:And I say good for them!
Good for who? - probably not the ?Chinese human rights activists?.
Will their email accounts be more secure with Baidu? Assuming they are allowed to have one.

Maybe Google should not have agreed to filter in the first place.

I meant: Good for Google for doing what I think is the right thing, irrespective of the fact that agreeing to censor in the first place was something that I think was wrong.

Lancashire-Witch

I meant: Good for Google

If I held Google stock I might not think it was “Good”

You reported that, in the light of these attacks, Google concluded they should “review the feasibility of our business operations in China.” That implies they have calculated the cost of pulling out of China - and costed all the alternative strategies.

It seems to me you are judging them on a moral stand that they have not explicitly expressed.

If they had said these attacks (and continued filtering) were totally unacceptable on ethical grounds and they could not continue to operate in China; then I might agree -  “Good for you, Google and to blazes with the financial consequences!”. - Even though none of this helps to bolster the security of the “activists” one bit. Let’s not forget they, reportedly, were the real target of the attacks.

On the other hand perhaps the potential financial consequences are not that great.

It can be difficult to understand the corporate mind-set sometimes.
So, on balance, I conclude it’s not good for anyone.

Bryan Chaffin

LW, I definitely have a glass-half-full outlook in my life, whereas you seem to have a the-glass-must-have-cracked-and-whatever-was-in-the-glass-must-have-leaked-out-and-probably-ruined-someone’s-shirt outlook.

In any event, I am not silly enough to think that Google is doing anything here purely out of the goodness of their corporate heart, though I will give them a bit more credit in that department than most other megacorps, including Apple.

Be that as it may, however Google arrived at the decision to stop censoring content, and I am glad they did so. Furthermore, I applaud the move, again that’s irregardless of how they arrived at the decision.

And I think I’ll quibble about you ignoring the fact that the company announced it would stop censoring, with the “review the feasibility of our business operations in China” clause being in addition to that decision. Again, I’m just glad it’s happening. I hate that Yahoo! Microsoft, and Google all agreed to censor their search results as a condition of doing business in China.

Lancashire-Witch

I’m not trying to cynical or negative, Bryan, I’m simply saying I don’t understand the logic that led Google to announce they may pull out of China if they are not allowed to stop filtering because 2 Gmail accounts have been compromised. 

Perhaps you don’t care how they decided; it’s the outcome that’s important.

But some Google shareholders and a couple of Chinamen may see things differently. Ultimately walking away from the world’s largest market could have significant long term financial consequences.  I fail to see what “good” they are doing by taking this approach. - Except good for Baidu, of course. The fact that I, or you, feel better because we think they should not have agreed to censor in the first place doesn’t carry much weight.

I accept your quibble. I should have quoted the entire final paragraph in your piece.

A cynic might say that Google have seized an opportunity to get themselves out of a nightmare they should never have got into because the rewards are not high enough. But I wouldn’t say that.

Here’s to a full glass!

Lancashire-Witch

oops! double post. I shouldn’t stop to fill my glass before I’ve finished typing. Sorry.

Bryan Chaffin

I axed the double post. smile

LW, I am an eternally optimistic person.  Indeed, I often self-depecratingly (and accurately) call myself a willfully optimistic person.

In this light, I’ll draw your attention to the ways in which I see this situation much differently than you.

For instance, you said:

I don?t understand the logic that led Google to announce they may pull out of China if they are not allowed to stop filtering because 2 Gmail accounts have been compromised.?

What I got out of this is that Google decided to stop filtering and is willing to accept the consequences from that, which is being booted out of the country.  It’s a subtle difference in our outlooks, but significant nonetheless.

Also, they didn’t do this because two accounts were partially, compromised, but rather because they, and other companies, were attacked by the Chinese government.

Indeed, it could be argued (by a willfully optimistic person) that the decision to stop filtering was a step beyond what they could have gotten away with, namely an official protest and a warning to its users that the Chinese government is out there doing these things.

I personally believe that Google’s management believes in its motto of Do No Evil, while accepting that the nature of being a corporation is almost always going to lead that management to interpret reality differently than me from time to time.

For instane, I think agreeing to filter was pretty close to evil.  They seemed to think (and I believe this from their original statement) that giving the Chinese people access to more information was still a step forward for them.  I think that might well epitomize that corporate-outlok vs. Bryan’s-outlook difference.

xmattingly

I am an eternally optimistic person.? Indeed, I often self-depecratingly… call myself optimistic

Isn’t deprecation a negative connotation? wink

Bryan Chaffin

Yep. smile

epilp88

Ditto to the comment about protectionism being stupid. There are many reason for outsourcing, most notably the high corporate tax rates that make the cost of manufacturing in the U.S. outrageously high. And to the poster who said “I’d gladly pay 1990 prices” I say you’re full of it. On top of that, if Americans were paying 1990 prices we’d be so technologically inferior to Asia it wouldn’t even be funny. Outsourcing is good. The problem is that various government actions (taxes, regulation, tariff, etc.) stifle American business’s ability to compete on the world market. More government intervention will not cure the problem, it will only make it worse. Like Bosco said, I wish you’d educate yourselves on basic economics before rushing to some half-wit politician’s talking points. Seriously, a high school economics course should have cured such ignorance. There is simply no explanation other than bigotry.

xmattingly

There is simply no explanation other than bigotry.

“Squeak squeak”, said the Troll. Nice try, Bosco, but trolling as an anonymous party isn’t going to fool anyone. Are you really so desperate to get attention that you have to resort to this?

Plain and simple, outsourcing is corporate greed. In many cases it’s far easier to pay some poor schlep a few rupees a day with no benefits than it is to keep a job in the US, and that goes for white collar jobs too, not just manufacturing. And since 2/3 of our economy is driven by consumer spending, I’ll gladly debunk your theory that outsourcing is actually good for us. Without jobs, there are no consumers. Without consumer spending, guess what: you’ve put a choke hold on what the most valuable sector of the US economy.

I wish some people would could articulate their theories beyond a bunch of generalizations, and not resort to calling everyone else who doesn’t agree with them an uneducated bigot. But then again, I’m not a condescending twit, so I sleep well regardless.

doogie

Anybody moderating?  I think the comments are getting a bit off topic.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

?Squeak squeak?, said the Troll. Nice try, Bosco, but trolling as an anonymous party isn?t going to fool anyone. Are you really so desperate to get attention that you have to resort to this?

Conspiracy FAIL. And as to your example, economics FAIL. Please Google “comparative advantage” and learn how it is possible that China makes TVs and we design software and both countries get richer and richer.

You could just see xmattingly complaining in discussion threads late in the 19th century when hundreds of thousands of people were losing their jobs picking and processing cotton due to the invention of the cotton gin. Without those jobs, how would those poor people pay their cell phone bills or afford HDTVs imported from China?

xmattingly

Bosco’s comments are on my ignore list (I’m still boycotting stupidity), but I’d bet my life savings it’s a response to my most recent one. I dug that worm out of the mud pretty quick, didn’t I?

AceNet-Alan

Bosco?s comments are on my ignore list (I?m still boycotting stupidity)

You missed out… Bosco thinks that there were discussion threads, cell phones and HDTVs in 19th century China… not to mention that the “poor” 19th century Chinese that needed high-tech stuff lost jobs over an invention created 500 years prior (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_gin). I got a good laugh at the “logic”. In any case, thanks for the head’s up on the ignore list option!

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