March 11, 2010

Google Threatens China Pullout Over Censorship

If given an ultimatum to censor its content in China or withdraw from a market that boasts over 380-million wired Internet users, a high-ranking Google executive has told U.S. lawmakers that they will cease operations and withdraw their presence from the Asian nation.

Speaking before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee during a hearing analyzing the relationship between Internet technology and democratic activism, Google vice president and deputy general counsel Nicole Wong said, "Google is firm in its decision that it will stop censoring our search results for China," a move that was first announced on January 12 of this year. If the option is that we'll shutter our .cn operation and leave the country, we are prepared to do that."

This isn't the first time Google has threatened to shut down their .cn domain. In addition to the censorship issue, in December 2009 and January 2010, the search engine suffered a series of minor attacks that targeted their source code and the email accounts of Chinese human right activists.

Some, including US-China Economic and Security Review Commission member Larry Wortzel, have blamed the Chinese government for the attacks. In a March 10, 2010 AFP article, Wortzel is quoted as saying he has "very little doubt" that government officials in the capital of Beijing orchestrated the cyber-attacks, though there is no evidence to support those claims.

According to Reuters, during the congressional hearing, Wong "urged lawmakers to ensure that the U.S. government presses international Internet openness as a priority in diplomatic, trade and development policies and work with like-minded governments to craft rules to ensure free flows of information." Reuters also reports that American trade officials are considering filing an appeal with the World Trade Organization (WTO), challenging online censorship in China.


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