Google leaving China?

If this goes ahead it’ll be a pretty far-reaching move:

We launched in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. …

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, 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, and potentially our offices in China.

[Full post]

Google’s been pretty widely criticised for its Chinese operations in the past; this is certainly to their credit, though I suspect those who’re most opposed to them won’t see stopping as much of a penance for having done it to begin with. (It’ll also shake up the Chinese internet market a bit – Google apparently has a market share of a quarter to a third of all searches there)

What’s interesting about the post is what it doesn’t say. The attacks are “highly sophisticated and targeted”, and a primary goal was aimed at reading the mail of individual human rights activists, not something that you’d routinely aim for as part of corporate espionage. They’re pointedly not accusing the government, not in so many words; it’s just hanging there waiting to see who runs with it.

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