Google stops censoring results in China

Today Google made history. David Drummond, the Internet giant’s chief legal officer announced on Google’s company blog that the company is no longer censoring its search results in China.

“earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn. Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong.”

The move is radical because it means an official break with the government of China. It may eventually lead to the Chinese authorities blocking all Google traffic, closing the door on the world’s largest online market for the world’s largest search engine. Why did Google take this drastic action? Drummond explains it is in response to “sophisticated cyber attacks originating in China.” In investigating the attacks,

“we had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties.”

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch is quoted in BusinessWeek calling Google’s decision an “indictment” of censorship. Previously, a search for “Tiananmen Square” from google.com would yield 200 million results and the top ones would cover the protest and bloodshed in 1989 but a search for the same term from google.cn, the Chinese version, would be heavily censored. The protests would not show.

Google’s move forces China’s hand. Either the government will allow unfiltered, uncensored search, or it will show its citizens and the world that information is still controlled from the top in China.

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