Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google to China: More in Sorrow than Anger

Google has released an extraordinary statement in response to apparent cyber-warfare by the Chinese government against Google and other Internet companies. Combined with the ever tightening grip of censorship over the net, Google has begun to fundamentally reassess their relationship with China.
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. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

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. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, 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. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.
From Wired:
The source said that Google was able to determine definitively that the attack originated in China, and that the attack was sophisticated in a way that Google does not generally experience.

“[Google is] under attack all the time, primarily via unsophisticated channels,” the source said. “I can’t go into detail to demonstrate the level of sophistication, but [the company] doesn’t use that term lightly, and it is quite deliberate.”

The source added that the implications of the attack are “extremely dark and extremely disturbing.”

“This is truly, truly beyond the pale,” he said. “The political nature of this and the attempt to monitor activists, not only in China but out of it, is chilling.”

In a separate investigation, the company said it discovered that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights advocates in the United States, China and Europe were accessed by third parties. These breaches, however, appeared to be the result of phishing attacks targeted at the users with the aim of stealing their account login credentials.

The company said it’s made changes to its architecture to enhance the security of accounts, but also advised users to take precautions to protect themselves, such as being cautious when clicking on links in e-mails and instant messages.

Google launched its Chinese-language search engine,, in January 2006. The company said at the time that it did so in the belief that a search engine would help open access to information for Chinese residents. To obtain permission to operate in China, however, the company had agreed to censor search results that the Chinese government deemed objectionable. Google was harshly criticized by civil liberties groups for its concession to Chinese authorities.

The company now appears to be regretting that decision.
The Chinese government must be in shock. They're used to western politicians and CEOs who mumble approvingly about free speech and human rights - but won't let morals get in the way of profits.

Beijing-based media expert Jeremy Goldkorn, said: “It’s quite remarkable. It is unprecedented for a foreign company with significant operations in China to publicly state such things with such evident hostility. It will be interesting to see what the fallout would be.”

In a sign that not all Chinese fall into line with some angry web comments that web users would manage just fine without Google, some people had been delivering bouquets of flowers to the company’s Beijing office.

One wrote: “Google: a real man.”

Prominent, and outspoken, Chinese blogger Wen Yunchao said: “This attack from China really targets some democracy activists and for Google this is a challenge to their morals and their legal bottom line. Google has fired an arrow and they know they can't take it back.”

He added: “The Chinese government cannot allow Google to operate without censorship. Of course, we hope that following its economic development, China could have more self-confidence and could be a little more open and globalised. The pity is that since 2008, things have been going backwards with the internet.”

The authorities have so far kept silent on the statement from Google.

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