Google Could Leave China over Censorship, E-mail Attacks

Google is showing patriotism and guts in standing-up to the Chinese.

Google's decision to take steps that may result in its having to leave China is an act of real courage and patriotism.

It also has the possibility of changing how some U.S. companies do business with China, perhaps in unexpected ways.

While China's capitalistic leanings are likely to result in long-term democratic reform, the country today remains a dictatorship and flagrant violator of basic human rights.

Dressing up an authoritarian regime in cheap consumer electronics exports does not change its basic nature.

Google on Tuesday revealed sophisticated Chinese attacks on it and other companies. Google said the attacks were aimed at hacking the e-mail accounts of human rights activists. It said two accounts may have actually been compromised.

Google has not provided the names the 20 other companies that were attacked.

Reuters reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with tech industry execs last week and discussed taking a harder line against Chinese Internet censorship. The meeting included representatives from Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, the news agency said.

Companies that do business in China must decide, perhaps on an ongoing basis, what compromises they are willing to make in order to maintain the relationship.

This can be very complex and the wrong choice can have consequences: In 2007, Yahoo execs were castigated as being "moral pygmies" by a U.S. congressman during hearings over Yahoo actions that led to the jailing of a dissident Chinese journalist.

Google's relationship with the Chinese government has been a complex one, though not one reflecting moral pygmy-ism among the company's leadership. And today's action, indeed, shows Google to be quite the opposite.

Yes, Google "sanitizes" search results delivered to users in China, but it has been telling users that the results have been censored. That was pretty gutsy in itself--and a real concession by the Chinese.

"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," wrote David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer on the company's official blog.

"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."

This is an incredibly brave thing for Google to do.

First, it embarrasses the Chinese, perhaps opening Google to the full force of a Chinese cyber attack.

Second, if Google really does leave the country, it will cost the company millions, perhaps billions of dollars and risks having that money go to a less-principled competitor.

Or perhaps this mess can be cleaned-up: There remains the possibility of negotiation, which if it results in uncensored Google search results in China will be a very good thing. If China is serious about improving its human rights record and joining the family of nations, this is a chance to prove its good intentions.

China is a great nation and a great people. The U.S. and other nations have important ties to China that should not be jeopardized lightly. But, there must also be lines that China cannot cross without repercussions.

Google is doing the right thing by drawing such a line on behalf of free people everywhere.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags GoogleChinaemailcensorship

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Coursey

PC World (US online)
Show Comments





Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?