The internet has been abuzz about Google threatening to end its operations in China as it fears their company websites have come under official attacks regarding security. Google in its blog discussing issues with China have claimed that they will now have a new way of dealing with China. Google.cn is the Chinese domain for Google. It has a huge subscriber base and as China is growing rapidly their internet usage has also grown manifold.
The Chinese government has had strict policy regarding internet censorship. It has a elaborate system which does clamp down on dissidents in various ways. Most companies look the other way and accept demands of the Chinese Government regarding sharing information and regulating content. Most companies like Microsoft and Yahoo have been criticized for their bowing to Chinese pressure for doing business in China. Many websites we consider harmless are often banned or blocked in China.
When Google entered China and created Google.cn it had initially accepted Chinese rules and a lot of experts claimed that Google had lost its innocence. All companies who do business in China do allow for greater censorship to their content by the government with usually the argument being you play by the rules that are present in the country.
Google – China mismatch
Google and China have always been a mismatch. Google essentially has done more than any internet company to free up information and make it very accessible. With complying to censorship in China, Google has probably compromised on its own culture. Google is one of the few companies who have first concentrated on functionality for users and then figured out ways around this functionality to make money. Small businesses and large businesses finally got the opportunity to contact individual users not with annoying email advertisements but through search. This system to work needs a big amount of openness and freeness to operate.
According to Google, China has managed to track and compromise security to an extent of certain individuals who were known dissidents or human rights activists. These cyber attacks were not just limited to Chinese citizens but also people in Europe and the US. Google has now started sharing information with various agencies on these attacks and will be discussing with China on a deal to go ahead and carry out their operations in China without any censorship. Google’s blog even goes to the extent that if it doesn’t work out they will have to shut their China operations which effectively close down Google.cn.
Another take on this controversy is if the Chinese state is unfairly targeting Google operations which benefit Baidu which is essentially controlled by Chinese government.
What do you think? Is it fair of Google to stand their ground and deal with China on their own terms or should Google accept the law of the land and work within that framework?
I personally think Google has a point here, as the internet is mainly a democratic and level playing forum for sharing information. Trying to control this forum will greatly harm its potential and hence internet should not be subject to censorship.
Link: Google Blog