In a firm stand against the Chinese government’s human rights policies, Google yesterday announced that they will no longer provide the same search censoring service to China that they once did.
Google’s webmail service, Gmail, and several other internet services were subject to cyber attacks last month which Google have traced to China.
In a post on The Official Google Blog entitled “A new approach to China”, Google’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond stated that “we [Google] have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn”.
Drummond continues to explain that Google will “discuss [how Google could run] an unfiltered search engine within the [Chinese] law, if at all.” This is backed up by a statement that Google “may well [have] to shut down Google.cn, and potentially [its] offices in China” if an agreement with the Government cannot be reached.
Drummond’s post indicates that the attacks were on the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, and that Google have a strong belief in human rights and freedom of information. He comments that when Google China was launched in 2006 it was intended to make uncensored information more easily available in China, and that Google had experienced “discomfort” in agreeing to censorship.
Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy announced in December of last year that he plans to put legislation which would censor Australia’s internet to parliament before next election.
The Australian system will be implemented as a blacklist targeting “refused classification” (RC) websites. RC websites contain material which is not allowed a rating in Australia due to illegal actions being portrayed. A report leaked last March however suggests that some websites possibly outside of the initial scope of RC content may also be blocked, including some pages on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.
What are the implications of this on Google’s service in Australia? If the search engine were to leave Australia it may cause greater public unrest than in China where Google is not such a dominant search engine.
Google’s stance on freedom of information may lead to some disputes on service with the Australian Government, however the ISP-level filtering forwarded by Senator Conroy may mean that filtered content found on Google will lead to a dead link and not the blocked website.
Google’s actions in China show how a large information carrier such as Google can attempt to hold an entire country’s Government at ransom.