Google and China: An end, and a new beginning

An article and podcast published on the Guardian with Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin suggests that the search giant has not just completely revised its standard operating procedures in China, but is encouraging the US administration to take action to safeguard the freedom of expression.

Brin, talking to the Guardian about Google’s decision yesterday to lift censorship from its Chinese internet search engine, called on government and businesses to act in order to put pressure on Beijing. “I certainly hope they make it a high priority,” he said. “Human rights issues deserve equal time to the trade issues that are high priority now … I hope this gets taken seriously.”

He also had pointed criticism at Microsoft for essentially toeing the Chinese administration’s line for little or no reciprocal profit.

The Lede by the New York Times gives more details on Google’s new approach to China taken from a blog post by the company’s senior vice president and chief legal officer.

So 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… We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services. We will therefore be carefully monitoring access issues, and have created this new web page, which we will update regularly each day, so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China.

I doubt very much the Chinese regime will respect the decision by Google, and it is very likely that their services will be blocked or banned very soon. Even today, the extent of the filtering is outrageous.

Hard to say which way this new development will take US-China relations, but first blood was drawn by the Chinese, and Google’s appropriate and courageous response must be fully supported and widely commended.

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