Google “no longer willing” to censor Chinese search results, may exit China

A few hours ago, Google made a startling announcement that the company has decided to stop filtering search results on Google.cn.  Google indicated, through a post on the official Google blog by David Drummond, the firm’s chief legal officer, that the shift came after it discovered a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” on its servers that aimed to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

While the carefully-worded post did not directly accuse the Chinese government of orchestrating the attacks, Google said that particularly in light of the country’s attempts over the last year to “further limit free speech on the web,” it would “review the feasibility of our business operations in China.”  Drummond wrote that over the next few weeks, the company will discuss with the Chinese government how it “could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all” but recognizes that it may have to shut down Google.cn.

Google’s seemingly bold step has garnered praise from numerous policy groups, though Google’s precise motivations are still somewhat indeterminate.  Some believe the firm may have been willing to censor search results as long as it thought the Chinese market could provide growth in advertising revenues, and that this could be motivated by a business decision to close Google.cn.  Or maybe Google is actually trying to live up to its ideal of “doing no evil.”

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