Google Stops Censoring in China (Updated)

From the Wall Street Journal:

Google Inc. made good on its threat to stop censoring its search results in China and began redirecting visitors to Google’s Chinese-language service based in Hong Kong.

The company said in a blog post Monday that it will continue to host non-search services in China and intends to keep sales and research operations in China. The company said it is “too early to tell” what will happen to its roughly 600 employees in China.

From GoogleBlog:

… 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. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over.

“欢迎您来到谷歌搜索在中国的新家” means “Welcome to the new home of Google China Search.”

Google also set up a dashboard with daily report to monitor its own accessibility in China.

China’s propaganda department has issued a censorship instruction to all Chinese media two hours before Google’s decision went to the public: Do not report news about Google.

Update: The New York Times reports:

Google’s decision to scale back operations in China ends a nearly four-year bet by the company’s founders and top executives that Google’s search engine in China, even if censored, would help bring more information to Chinese citizens and loosen the government’s controls on the Internet.

Instead, specialists say, Chinese authorities have tightened their grip on the Internet in recent years. While other multinational companies are not expected to follow suit, some Western executives say Google’s decision is a symbol of a worsening business climate in China for foreign corporations and perhaps an indication that the Chinese government is favoring home-grown companies.

“It is certainly a historic moment,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet project at the University of California, Berkeley. “The Internet was seen as a catalyst for China being more integrated into the world. The fact that Google cannot exist in China, clearly indicates that China’s path as a rising power is going in a direction different from what the world expected and what many Chinese were hoping for.”

And from the Associated Press:

many analysts believed China didn’t want to lose Google completely, possibly because it might be interpreted as a setback in the government’s efforts to foster innovation.
For its part, Google wanted to stay in China so it could keep hiring computer programmers and peddling ads in the country. Google also believes its presence in China could lead to looser rules on censorship.

China accounted for a small fraction of Google’s $24 billion in annual revenue. Analysts estimate Google brought in $250 million to $600 million from China. It’s unclear how much of that amount flowed exclusively from Google.cn.

But investment analysts have worried about the long-term consequences of Google’s actions in China. Opportunities there figure to grow faster than in the U.S. or Europe. Even if Google remained a distant second in search behind the homegrown Baidu.com Inc. in China, Google could still prosper as more Internet ads are served up in the country.
Investors, not surprisingly, have seemed to be more interested in profit than principles. Google shares have slipped 5 percent since its Jan. 12 warning about a possible shutdown in China. The technology-driven Nasdaq composite stock index has climbed about 5 percent during the same span. Google shares fell slightly after the announcement and closed Monday at $557.50, down $2.50 for the day. Baidu’s U.S. shares, which have soared about 50 percent since Google raised the possibility of leaving China, closed Monday at $579.72, up 1.8 percent.

Read also:

- a brief interview with Google co-founder Sergey Brin in the New York Times.

- The Chinese government’s official statement on Google’s move

- “What It’s Like to Search the Web in China Right Now” from the Atlantic

- “In Brief: Google’s China Move,” a backgrounder from Andrew Lih”

- Rebecca MacKinnon’s interview with Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond for Index on Censorship.

- The Guardian: Google China: Search engine’s stand against censorship welcomed by campaigners and Google angers China by shifting service to Hong Kong.

And more, via the Topix tracker:

ABC Google Risks China’s Ire With Slap to Censorship
WSJ Analysts’ Views: Google’s China Decision
CNN China state media: Google decision “totally wrong”
ABC Google Moves Offshore to Thwart China Censorship
CBS Google Defies China on Web Censorship
CBS China: Google Violated Promise to Filter

March 22, 2010 11:27 AM
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