Google‘s getting some moral support from the government in its decision to stop censoring search in China.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out against Internet censorship Thursday, saying the U.S. government is “committed to helping promote Internet freedom.” While she didn’t directly endorse Google’s decision to potentially shut down its China-based operations, Clinton did say that censorship “should not be in any way accepted by any company anywhere.” She also called upon China to fully investigate the cyberattacks that led to Google’s stance.
This whole Google-China debacle has snowballed faster than you can say “Beef Brisket in Wikipedia Flavor.” (Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.) The truth, though, is that Google’s beef with China dates back nearly a decade — and these recent turns are really just the straws that broke the Google’s back.
Here’s a guide to the peaks and valleys that paved the way to the standoff we’re seeing now.
Google and China: The Beginnings
• September 2000: Google introduces a Chinese version of its search engine at the Google.com domain.
• January 2006: Google relents and launches Google.cn, a specialized version of its search site that filters out pornographic and “politically sensitive” results. The company acknowledges that the filtering “clearly compromises [its] mission,” but notes that “failing to offer Google search at all to a fifth of the world’s population … [would do so] far more severely.”
• June 2009: China finds some pornographic results in the Google.cn site and goes ballistic. (Those guys evidently never read this study about why porn is actually good for society.) The country blocks access to Google until the G-team wipes out every mention of the G-spot.
• January 12, 2010: Google announces that it will no longer censor search results in China following an attack on its servers in the country. The attack, Google says, targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. “These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered … have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China,” Google explains in a blog posting. “We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn. … We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”
• January 14, 2010: China counters Google’s threat by saying if it wants to operate in the country, it will have to abide by local laws. Those laws include the requirement to filter (read: censor) search results.
• January 18, 2010: Someone hacks into the Gmail accounts of foreign journalists at two Beijing news bureaus. This may or may not be related to the main attack, but its timing certainly doesn’t help with the tension.
• January 21, 2010: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lashes out against Internet censorship. But you already know that. Unless you suffer from memory loss. Which, by the way, can result from viewing too much Internet porn, according to China’s state-run news agency.