Google Accuses China of Violating W.T.O. Rules on Internet Access

In a policy brief, Google calls Internet censorship by China and other countries an unfair barrier to trade. From the Guardian:

“More than 40 governments now engage in broad-scale restriction of online information, a tenfold increase from just a decade ago,” the US-based technology giant warns in a policy brief on internet trade restrictions published yesterday.

The warning follows an embattled 12 months in China, where Google has had to comply with state censorship rules or risk being kicked out of the world’s most populous internet market. Google yesterday denied its policy brief was sparked by developments in China, where the company lags some way behind the native Baidu in the search market, but said the country’s government was capable of “arbitrary and capricious behaviour” in its dealings with internet companies.

[…] Bob Boorstin, Google’s director of public policy, said in a post on the company’s blog: “Governments are blocking online services, imposing non-transparent regulation, and seeking to incorporate surveillance tools into their internet infrastructure. These are the trade barriers of the 21st century economy.

“These actions unnecessarily restrict trade and, left unchecked, they will almost certainly get worse,” the briefing warns.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Baidu chairman Robin Li says it was Google’s business practices that forced it to retreat from the China market. From the Register:

The difference between Li and Schmidt is that, well, Li is Chinese. He studied computer science in the States and worked on search in Silicon Valley with InfoSeek. But he was born in Shanxi, a northern Chinese province. Li said that, like Google, he considered a move to Hong Hong to avoid censorship, but soon realized that this wasn’t a possibility. “[Censorship] was a frustration…my first reaction was also ‘let’s move to Hong Kong]’,” he said. “But I realized that wouldn’t work for me, because I’m Chinese. If I were to move to Hong Kong, they would call me some kind of anti-government person. My life would be ruined.

“If an American company decides not to obey Chinese law, they are still called ‘strategic partners.'”

Speaking with Business Week, Schmidt said that the Chinese deck was unfairly stacked in Baidu’s favor — but Li calls this a “common misconception.” Li pointed out that Baidu is just one of many search options in China. “There are a lot more choices in China than in the United States for web search,” he says. “Here, you have Google and you have Bing. What is the number three?”

Download Google’s policy paper here. See also an article from the New York Times.


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