Google seeks to take China to WTO over censorship

Michael Carroll
04 Mar 2010

Google is lobbying the US government to make China’s search censorship a WTO issue.

Two industry groups with close ties to the search giant are lobbying the US Trade Representative’s office, claiming that the censorship is an unfair barrier to trade.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association and the First Amendment Coalition argue that by blocking Google, China is effectively discriminating against US firms, Bloomberg reports.

Nicole Wong, deputy general counsel of Google, notes that China’s censorship favors domestic search engines and ISPs, which goes against global trading principles.

A spokesman for the US Trade Representative’s office previously told Bloomberg Radio that the issue in China is more about free speech and freedom of information than it is about trade.

Google has voluntarily limited its search results since establishing in 2006, however the firm announced in January that it would end self-imposed censorship, and would even consider pulling out of the country if it can’t find a way to supply unfiltered results.

The search firm’s patience ran out after it emerged that a large-scale cyber attack on it and other US companies originated in China.

It stated it would review its business operations in China, but has since made no decision on its presence in the market.

Bloomberg reports that a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce said the ministry was there to protect foreign firms and enforce the country’s laws and regulations.

However, the US government is itself imposing blocks on internet content.

It is already in talks with internal agencies, overseas governments, and key web firms over future internet policies, The Register reports.

Those talks could see legislation or regulation introduced, as part of a new breed of web policy.

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