Google has overnight threatened to pull out of all operations in China, following a series of web attacks in December.
The company, which launched Google.cn over four years ago, had previously agreed to heavy censorship of its search engine results to be within Chinese law but now insists, via the Google blog, that:
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.”
The decision comes following a series of high profile hacking attacks which, it is believed, originated in China.
Google had been rapidly catching Chinese search engine Baidu in terms of usage, something which was considered by many to be as a result of the American owned company’s less stringent application of censorship rules in search results.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Chinese government accedes to Google’s wishes, but it must be considered likely that it will not, in which case, Google may well have to carry out its threat to pull out of all operations in China.
Google’s decision appears to be motivated by the unwillingness of China to punish internet hackers who have caused significant difficulty to Google in recent months, however, just how this issue relates to Google’s censorship position is unclear at present. It could well be that Google’s higher-ups consider that, for it to continue scratching China’s back in terms of censorship, the Chinese government must play ball when it comes to dealing with cyber-criminals within its borders.
Web users around the world will be watching how this posturing plays out. The question is quite clear – does Google have sufficient clout to force China to change its web censorship rules where many others have failed?