Google said Tuesday that it would stop cooperating with Chinese Internet censorship and consider shutting down its operations in the country altogether, citing assaults from hackers on its computer systems and China’s attempts to “limit free speech on the Web.”
The move, if followed through, would be a highly unusual rebuke of China by one of the largest and most admired technology companies, which had for years coveted China’s 300 million Web users.
Since arriving here in 2006 under an arrangement with the government that purged its Chinese search results of banned topics, Google has come under fire for abetting a system that increasingly restricts what citizens can read online.
Google linked its decision to sophisticated cyberattacks on its computer systems that it suspected originated in China and that were aimed, at least in part, at the Gmail user accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
While the scope of the hacking and the motivations and identities of the hackers remained uncertain, Google’s response amounted to an unambiguous repudiation of its five-year courtship of the Chinese market, which most major multinational companies consider crucial to growth. It is also likely to enrage the Chinese authorities, who deny that they censor the Internet and are accustomed to having major foreign companies adapt their practices to Chinese norms.
Even later: Google Takes a Stand
Eventually, I think, a combination of technology, education and information will end the present stasis in China. In a conflict between the Communist Party and Google, the party will win in the short run. But in the long run, I’d put my money on Google.
Later: a real flurry of events as things heat up
From the close of that speech:
[...] No nation, no group, no individual should stay buried in the rubble of oppression. We cannot stand by while people are separated from the human family by walls of censorship. And we cannot be silent about these issues simply because we cannot hear the cries.
So let us recommit ourselves to this cause. Let us make these technologies a force for real progress the world over. And let us go forward together to champion these freedoms for our time, for our young people who deserve every opportunity we can give them.
Thank you all very much
The Department of State is calling this 21st Century Statecraft.
Later (Jan 25): China Denies It Attacked Google (pdf)