Wednesday 24 January 2018

Google closes China site in row over censorship

People walk near the Google China headquarters in Beijing. Photo: Getty Images
People walk near the Google China headquarters in Beijing. Photo: Getty Images

Mike Harvey in San Francisco

GOOGLE has effectively closed its flagship search site in China, carrying out a threat issued two months ago in a dispute over censorship.

The company said that it had stopped censoring its search results in China and was redirecting all web users of its Google.cn service to its Google search site based in Hong Kong.

The internet giant stopped short of pulling out of China altogether, saying that it wanted to keep its research and development staff and sales teams in the country.

The compromise reflects the importance to Google of retaining a presence in the world's largest market of nearly 400 million internet users.

Google has been in talks with the Chinese government over its threat to shut down its Chinese-language search engine and close its offices, rather than bow to government censors.

Google launched its Chinese-language website in 2006, agreeing to comply with local laws requiring censorship.

However, on January 12 it delivered the ultimatum after alleged cyber attacks aimed at its source code and at the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

The Chinese authorities have the option of blocking the Google site from Hong Kong altogether but Google said it hoped that the government would not do so. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked .

David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, said: "We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.''

In recent days the Chinese media have attacked the search giant. China's state-run Xinhua news agency launched an attack on Google yesterday, saying that the company had reneged on promises.

Xinhua said that Google had promised to filter its search engine for "harmful content", in accordance with the law.

"Now Google suddenly wants to break its promise and if it's not satisfied it will criticise China for a worsening of the investment environment."

Mr Drummond said: "We intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, although the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk."

The Google case has spread beyond censorship and hacking and has become a diplomatic sore in Sino-US relations. .(©The Times London)

Irish Independent

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