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Google Pulls Out, But Not Before Inciting International Frenzy

March 23, 2010

That’s right, Google pulled out of China.  When China wanted Google to censor their searches, Google just wouldn’t do the deed and pulled out instead.  Now news reports suggest China is embarrassing itself by openly pushing for censorship, and Google has impregnated the massive country with a sense that the Great Firewall might in fact be blocking a whole lot more than what the Chinese government let on:

Google’s decision to redirect its China site to Google Hong Kong produced a surprisingly strident response from the Chinese government, which denounced the move as“totally wrong” and a “broken promise”.

In an amusing press release, the government also accused Google of “politicalizing” itself.

No one expected the Chinese government to accede to Google’s demands, but Google’s clever decision to simply redirect its China site to Hong Kong exposed just how much content the Chinese government insists on censoring. (Instead of simply not finding content about Tiananmen Square, et al, searchers now get a big message saying the page is unavailable.)

Just as important for Google, the move left the Chinese government in the position of having to censor the content (via the Great Firewall) instead of simply ordering its pawns at Google to do it.

The Hong Kong redirect has created another embarrassment for the Chinese government, both within China and internationally. China is already dealing with the perception that it is has begun to crack down on foreign businesses. And now Google has once again (temporarily) humiliated it in the eyes of its citizens and the world.

I am not sure how humiliated China really is, because no one in China would comment for sure one way or the other, but apparently the writer of the above-post, Henry Blodget at The Huffington Post thinks so.  In any case, Google is out and censorship is still in for Chinese citizens.  Too bad some information was already leaked before the pull-out.

Google’s co-founder, apparently from a Soviet-controlled country, believes that freedom of information is power, and to this end, has decided to route its information through Hong Kong:

Google explains,

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. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over.

Google states that the decision to halt censoring search results and redirect users to Google.com.hk is linked to the cyber-attacks that took place earlier this year: ‘We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered–combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger–had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn,’ Google writes.

Google apparently is fighting back, even if it took them four years to do it.

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