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Google Detects Cyberattacks from China; Defiantly Ends Censorship of Google.cn

12 Jan 2010

Several hours ago, Google announced on its public policy blog that in response to Chinese cyberattacks on the Gmail accounts of human rights activists, the company will effectively end the censorship of Google.cn and may close shop in the country altogether. Though Google did not overtly name the government, sources with knowledge of the investigation reported that enough evidence had been gathered to suggest their implicit role. More on the story at NYT.com.

Go Google. In the wake of past mistakes–the NYT reminds us of Yahoo’s wrongful handover of information which led to the ten-year imprisonment of two activists and Microsoft’s shutdown of a popular Chinese blog–this is a symbolic step in defense of the freedom of expression and against blatant criminal activity, an even more frightening prospect if it was in fact perpetuated by the government.

I hope this leads to real international backlash and some solid headway on the censorship debate. But even corporate giants like Google have no serious influence on the matter; the company has already been struggling to maintain a hold over the Chinese market, its local alternative Baidu.com covering about 60% in comparison to its paltry 30%. For Facebook, there’s RenRenWang. For AOL’s AIM or Microsoft’s MSN, there’s QQ. Knowing China and its spotlighted position on the world stage, who really has the leverage now to demand change?

Chinese citizens leaving flowers at the Google China headquarters.

EDIT: Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engline Land, has written up a comprehensive analysis of the Google move. Highly recommended. As a funny side-note (I guess for us, not for those in the mainland right now), when my friend Shing tried to google Tiananmen on google.cn, his internet browser crashed immediately.

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