Google Threatens to Quit China

Contributing Editor

Google vs ChinaGoogle has announced they are considering closing their offices in China and shutting down Google.cn following cyber attacks on the company’s systems.

Google reports they detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on their corporate infrastructure which originated from China. Although it was initially considered to be a major security incident, Google discovered the attack affected at least 20 large companies. They have evidence which suggests the hackers primary goal was to access the GMail accounts of known Chinese human rights activists.

Their investigation led them to discover that the accounts of dozens of human rights activists from the US, Europe and China have been regularly violated by unauthorized third parties. However, in most cases, the accounts were probably breached using malware or phishing scams.

Although Google has been careful to avoid any finger-pointing at the Chinese authorities, they have released details about the attacks on their official blog.

Google launched the Google.cn search engine in January 2006 and the company was criticized for censoring results in accordance with the Chinese Government’s wishes. David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer states:

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 Google.cn, 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. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

China has the world’s largest internet population with over 300 million web users. The majority use the country’s own Baidu search engine, but Google still holds a 29% market share.

Should Google quit China? Has Google become so influential, that it can strike back at Governments it disagrees with? I suspect this story will evolve over the coming months.

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  • http://brianswebdesign.com skunkbad

    I really don’t think China (the government) would care if Google pulled out.

  • http://www.dangrossman.info Dan Grossman

    They wouldn’t have written that post if they cared what the Chinese government thought. A post like that means they’ll never make a deal again. It just doesn’t work like that there, which means Google already decided that they’re willing to give up on that option, and wants to get some positive PR spin from Western countries while doing so.

  • http://www.brothercake.com/ brothercake

    I really do! Not that Google itself is a particularly big player in China, but it sets a precedent that the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo, and many others could well follow.

    I mean what’s a company to do, when the government itself is hacking you?

  • Vipul Suri

    I said few years back in my office that Google will rule and it is coming out the same way. The truth lies in the fact that how many times you go to Google in a single day.

  • Howard

    The Chinese Government are afraid of the internet freedom, the government is hidden a lot of information that they don’t want people to know it. So Google in China is out for sure!

  • baoshu

    I have some different observations on this matter, so here goes and please read through with patience.

    1. Firstly, Google is a world donimance in search market. If you think about it, a company that can control 70% of the search results around the globe, that is very powerful, not just technically, but also politically. If, by any chance Google wants to control the information people see, it can easily achieve that. That is a threat to any government.

    2. Secondly, Google appears to stand high on this matter. But I’m not sure if it can do the same if it’s not Chinese government. If you take the U.S. government as an example, if FBI, CIA or Obama requested Google to provide Bin Laden’s gmail account password, will Google provide or will Google enforce freedom of speech? U.S. government sees terrorism as the biggest threat is no real difference to Chinese government where they see human right activists as a big threat to them. And when it happens, both government will act the same way. The question is, can Google still stand hight by then?

    3. Pulling out operations from the biggest online community is a BIG decision, China has 300 million internet users and growing fast. Google’s decision seems to be made rather quick and not well thought of. It sent a signal of internal political struggle to me. Yes, I suspect there were internal struggles within Google and the decision of pulling plug in China is just a reflection of such. The decision was made apparently based on mixture of two separate issues: a. Google has been attacked. b. Google has been censoring search results to comply to local authorities for years. It’s just not logical that Google concluded to close its operations because it’s attacked. I suspect there might be involvement of the U.S. government somehow. We just have to wait and see how this issue evolves.

  • US

    If Google is out of China

    Then we will not Buy any Product which is MADE in CHINA

  • tan beng SG

    Seriously google just quit form the CCP ( chinese communist party ) at china then. It would be better to leave a country(that good at censoring most net) that “threatening” the chinese government stand in power in all aspect and google should not care bout money influences gaining.Beside china has it OWN search engine which allow the chinese government to show most pro and no con bout the CCP ranking

    Beside let the CCP government tell to what it people what to post or what not to post it CCP 50 cent army cant help much to defend the government in a country that has a growing number and biggest number of internet user changing mindset .

  • http://www.bournias.net peterb

    It’s about time that management started realizing that China doesn’t give a damn about all things being equal.

  • TheWix

    @US,
    Where would we buy things in the US, if not from communist China?
    Plus, we own them so much money we should be nice to them, LOL

  • Anonymous

    I have the same doubt as baoshu’s, i.e. is Google also going to stand high when facing the US government?

    Large companies like Google are of course expected to take certain social responsibilities. However, business is just business. When a company of this size starts playing over politically, things become kinda scary.

    Another fact not well-known to westerners is that, unlike it’s dominance in the global market, Google still has only around 30% market share in China, after struggling for 4 years. This feels to me more likely the REAL reason behind the scene. Also, there had already been rumors that they were withdrawing since their former CEO in China quit last September.

  • willthiswork

    U.S. government sees terrorism as the biggest threat is no real difference to Chinese government where they see human right activists as a big threat to them

    Well, there is still a big difference. Unlike Bin Laden, human right activists don’t plan mass-murders.

    I suspect there might be involvement of the U.S. government somehow. We just have to wait and see how this issue evolves.

    I suspect there might be involvement of American companies operating in China, when they realized their commercial secrets are directly stolen by the China government (E.G. Adobe). Thus making Gmail possibly the worst tool for your business in China.
    Shame on Google (and the rest of the western world) for not really giving a damn about human rights.
    Anyway it is just another evidence of how we fucked our economy, culture and society all in the name of money and in the interest of one the worst dictatorship in the world.

  • stupid ass

    China doesnot care I guess…better not mess up with them!!

  • paul

    as a chiese senior school students, i feel pity for our government.
    anyway, goole is here to stay.

    more and more chiese want to known the truth, especially us, youths.goole just open a window for us to see the world outside.

    slthough google holds only 0.3 markets share, it’s a must. (baidu is only used for some low order use, like gossip or some basic use.)

    if there is a coutry where goole can’t stay, i doubt how long it can exist.