Taking the moral high ground?

google, china, google.cn

Google has drawn a line in the sand and said that it will be shutting down its Chinese sector Google.cn should the Chinese government continue to insist on filtering search results. The announcement comes after Google told the world it had been the victim of an organised sophisticated hack. According to Google the attack was based out of China, and the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists were accessed. Here’s what Google's official blog said about the hacks:

“In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. (...) We have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. (...) As part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.

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 Google.cn, 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 Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”

Google initially brought their services to China because it saw a business opportunity, and as a company that aims to collate and organise all of the information in the world it didn’t make much sense to not provide their services to a fifth of the population of Earth. So this move to pull out of China if the Government’s censoring continues seems a little strange. In an idyllic way it’s nice to see such a huge company taking the moral high ground, but I fail to see how A) stopping their services in China will end or lessen the censorship enforced by the Chinese government or B) how anyone will benefit from this move-especially not Google. Essentially, I don’t understand how the hacks/malware attacks are related to Google not being allowed to provide unfiltered search results in China. It seems to me that there are some other reasons behind all of this and that we’re not getting the full picture….

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