Google has said, after an attempted and potentially government sponsored hack into dissidents’ GMail accounts, that it will no longer comply with government censorship guidelines in China. Danny Sullivan has an extensive write-up at SEL.
There’s also a Google Blog post explaining:
In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.
First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.
Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective.
Here’s the key paragraph:
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.
This act of fortitude and integrity deserves a standing ovation. It also should be a model for other US companies doing business in China.
Stepping back, it also changes the narrative about Google instantly. It transforms Google from the “unstoppable, monopolistic juggernaut,” the “steamrolling giant” back into the “different kind of company” that people fell in love with years ago.
Let me be clear: I don’t think that Google has done this for any other reasons than it’s stating. Should it “hold,” this is a move that people will cheer and celebrate for some time.