It emerged yesterday that Google could pull its operation out of China after the company’s Chinese website was hacked under what it described as a ‘sophisticated and targeted’ attack. Google has made no accusations as to who was responsible for the attack, but the email accounts of human rights activists were targeted and the indication is clear that the Chinese government could be responsible.
As a result of the attack, Google has announced that it will not continue to censor its results in China, which was part of the agreement to allow the Californian company into China in the first place. Google received a lot of criticism following its decision to censor its results for the Chinese audience, ensuring that pages that were deemed ‘unsuitable’ for Chinese eyes were removed from its index at the behest of the government.
As Google’s company motto is ‘Don’t be evil’, the idea that Google was bowing to the Chinese government and censoring its results did, for some people, fly in the face of what Google is all about.
However, it is unclear how the Chinese government will react to Google finally succumbing to its conscience, and the decision could see Google leave China altogether, surrendering the Chinese search engine market to Baidu, who have already commented on the news through their chief architect:
What Google said makes me sick. If you are to quit for the sake of financial interest, then just say it.
Google commands one third of the search engine market in China, which stands at 340 million Internet users. Baidu has 60% of the search engine market.
In the attack against Google, the email accounts of known human rights activists were accessed by an unknown party, whom Google insist did not gain access through any security breach on their part. Google claims that malware placed on the computers of the users was responsible.
Google’s Peter Barron made it clear how Google feels about censoring its results for the Chinese government:
We should no longer agree to censor our results in China’.
Despite angering the government, and in one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, supporters of Google today laid flowers outside Google’s Chinese offices, showing their support for Google’s decision to stand up to the Chinese government.
The next few weeks will tell whether Google wins its battle in China, or concedes the marketplace entirely, chalking the whole four year affair down to experience.