Google has decided to stop censoring its search results in China as mandated by the Chinese government—even if that means shuttering their search business there. The Chinese government has responded, reminding us all that they’re in control of the Internet in China, and nobody else should get any ideas from Google’s ploy.
Naturally, China also condemned the cyber attack (which originated in China and targeted over 30 companies, according to Reuters) and said that they are against piracy. They stated that the government has a duty to shape public opinion through means like the Internet.
Which, of course, is antithetical to one of the most basic, inalienable rights recognized by Americans and further protected by the First Amendment. But hey, to each his own, I guess.
While some experts argue there may be room for negotiations, many think that Google will have to leave the search market in China if they don’t comply to the government’s wishes. It’s possible that Google might retain other businesses in China, like Google Voice or its book scanning project, especially since just this week they made concessions to the government to try to reach a deal.
Interestingly, although Google says that the cyber attack targeted at Chinese human rights activists’ Gmail accounts may have actually originated with the Chinese government, China insists that they must censor the Internet to protect people, online and off. During this time of “social conflicts” (um, mightn’t these be the same social conflicts afflicting the nation 20 years ago?), they must proscribe what content their
subjects citizens can see. They also argue, “Properly guiding Internet opinion is a major measure for protecting Internet information security.”
A vigil began outside Google’s Beijing office Wednesday night. While they control a minority share of the market (Baidu says 17%, Analysis International says 32%), their users are highly loyal.
What do you think? Will China give any ground? Will Google keep any of its businesses in the Middle Kingdom?