Google considers China exit

Robert Clark
13 Jan 2010

Google is considering closing its China search site and leaving the mainland market because of censorship issues and recent cyber-attacks.

The internet firm said it would no longer censor search results on its site and would seek discussions with the Chinese government on how it could run “an unfiltered search engine within the law.”

“We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China,” said the post, by chief legal officer David Drummond.

Drummond said the company had recently sustained attacks aimed “primarily” at accessing the Gmail addresses of China human rights activists as well as stealing Google’s intellectual property. In an investigation it had found that the accounts of dozens of human rights advocates in Europe, China and the US had been “routinely accessed by third parties.”

The disclosures are sure to spark fierce denials by Chinese authorities. The news was reported by Chinese websites this morning, but without any reference to the surveillance of human rights activists.

Drummond said that was launched in four years in the belief that the benefits of wider access to information “outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results.”

However, the company had made clear that it could carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on its services.

“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.

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