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

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 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, and potentially our offices in China."