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Google: ‘Principle’ The Reason For China Pullout

April 12, 2010

Google went public with Chinese-based hacking attacks and decided to stop censoring online content in the communist country out of “principle,” according to comments made by the company’s CEO at this weekend’s annual conference of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE).

“Google is an unusual company,” Eric Schmidt told the gathering of American newspaper editors and international news media representatives on Sunday, adding he isn’t surprised that few tech companies haven’t followed their lead in their dealings with Beijing officials.

“We have the ability to make decisions without a lot of short-term financial focus,” he added. “I expect that most other companies either don’t agree with our principles or, more likely, they agree with our principles but mechanically they can’t do it”¦ so I suspect that you won’t see a lot of others but there’s always the possibility.”

When asked about the possible outcome of the ongoing conflict between the two parties, Schmidt said that he was uncertain, but told Reuters, “It is a battle”¦ We know that there is a reasonably large group of people in China who are seeking non-censored information.”

Earlier this year, officials at Google revealed that the search engine’s source code and Web-based Gmail accounts belonging to journalists and human-rights activists in China had been targeted by a series of cyber attacks.

In response to those hacking incidents, Schmidt’s company decided to redirect its Chinese-language search services to a Hong Kong page that provides users with access to uncensored content–”a decision based on principle,” the Google CEO said during the ASNE conference.

Schmidt was also asked about Google’s policy of linking to newspaper stories through Google News without paying rights fees for them, a move that has drawn criticism from some U.S. media professionals. In response, he said that the search engine was trying to generate more traffic for newspaper websites, and challenged media personnel to “run some experiments” and find a way to generate income through their online publications.

“New forms of making money will develop,” he told reporters, adding that there was “significant money” to be made through online news coverage.

“We want you to have tools and technologies which will allow you to make a lot of money from those users,” Schmidt said. “Eventually that model should have higher profitability because there’s lower cost of goods, you don’t have the newspaper printing costs and the distribution costs.”

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