Google’s new report on what services you can use in China
All those weeks of talks finally came to a head early this morning, as Google stopped censoring its search results in China. Instead of google.cn, users are being directed to an uncensored version of google.com.hk in simplified Chinese. On the company’s official blog, Google’s Senior Vice President David Drummond says that routing through Hong Kong is a legal move, although the Chinese government can still block access to the site. By doing so, Google can continue to offer its search engine to Chinese users outside the jurisdiction of mainland Chinese law, a move the WSJ quotes a source as saying seems to be an “elegant solution if it were to hold,” but China will most likely not allow it to continue.
But we learned all about that in the wee hours of the morning. In the day that’s followed, the world over has exploded with opinions and commentary – almost as much as when Google first announced it was pulling out of the country.
Reaction from the Chinese government has been swift and uncompromising. Google has “violated its written promise” and has made “;unreasonable accusations,” Xinhua quotes a government official as saying. On the U.S. side, Washington released a statement saying it was “disappointed” that Google could not reach an agreement with Beijing although it respected its decision. The administration is “committed to Internet freedom and … opposed to censorship. While we seek to expand cooperation on issues of mutual interest with China, we will candidly and frankly address areas of disagreement,” said National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.
Initial reports suggest that the some search terms are already being restricted from the Google Hong Kong site – though that may just be the regular GFW filter. While a search for a certain persecuted religious/cult group caused our browsers to disconnect even on the google.com.hk, turning on the VPN showed that group’s wikipedia page, its regular webpage and several other sites on the internet that offered support.
For those of you eagerly following today’s top story, here’s a roundup of sources around the web:
- Rumor has it that Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, was a big proponent of leaving China. Having lived in the former Soviet Union, Brin explains in a NY Times interview how the experience of living under a totalitarian system has affected his views.
- Minxin Pei: Google has “received practically no solidarity from Western companies…this disappointing response from the West’s corporate community suggests that it has not fully understood China, especially the political calculations behind its policy toward Western companies.”
- USC professor Andrew Lih answers some questions about the technicalities of the switch to google.com.hk
- Rebecca MacKinnon interviews Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond and reveals some interesting insights into the company’s stance
- Reuters has provided text on official comments from the Chinese government on Google’s move
- The street reaction to Google’s pullout hasn’t exactly been too sympathetic – though, interestingly enough, older people weren’t even aware that China was censoring the internet until now.
- The Atlantic’s James Fallows has an interesting web-search report sent from a Chinese reader in the immediate aftermath of Google’s decision.
- Finally, this is worth a look: Google’s own list on what services are available or blocked in China.