Google to China: We've Had Enough

Facing criticism is part of the cost of doing business for large companies, and Google is no exception. Among the chief sources of criticism for the search giant is its accession to the censorship demands of the People's Republic of China. The outcry may soon see a change of tense, however, as the company has announced an end to its cooperation.

Google has long contended that its actions, which include filtering thousands of banned search terms are a matter of complying with applicable law — its operations within China are subject to Chinese law, just as its activities in the United Sates are governed by U.S. law. (In the case of the latter, it complies with demands to block content subject to DMCA complaints.) Moreover, it is a matter of practicality: As has been aptly demonstrated by the "Great Firewall of China," ones options are censor or be censored.

Critics have long called for Google to end its cooperation with the Chinese government, while the company has countered that Chinese users would suffer greater harm from a complete block than selective filtering. That position has changed, however, after an internal investigation into recent attacks aimed at breaching email accounts from its Gmail service as well as services from at least twenty other large providers. The accounts targeted in the attack belonged to individuals involved in Chinese human rights activities, including activists within China as well as in the United States and several areas of Europe.

In a post to Google's official blog, Chief Legal Officer David Drummond revealed the results of the company's investigation into the events, which he described as a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure." Though the attackers "did not achieve [their] objective" in December, Drummond that Google's team uncovered evidence that dozens of activists were subject to regular invasion of their accounts over an unspecified period. A combination of malware and phishing, rather than a breach of the service itself, is believed to be responsible.

While noting the country's continued growth, calling it a "great the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today", Drummond wrote that a combination of increasing restriction and the recent discoveries "led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China." Though the post never explicitly accuses the Chinese government of orchestrating the attacks, the company will no longer comply with the government's censorship demands, a move that "will have potentially far-reaching consequences."

Google plans to "discuss" the future of Google China with government officials, though the tone of Drummond's post was far from hopeful. He acknowledged that the company's Chinese site,, may go offline, and that it may be forced to cease operations entirely. He also stressed that none of the company's Chinese personnel were consulted, or informed at all, presumably in an effort to protect them against government retaliation.


Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.


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Companies running business

Anonymous's picture

Companies running business in any countries should abide the local laws. There's no reason that Google should be an exception of this. The Chinese government is not likely to give in on this issue, so Google is 99% sure quitting this huge market.

Don't be evil? In the name of human rights and freedom of speech? Come on, let's be honest. Google only has around 30% market share in China. There had been voices that they were withdrawing since their former CEO in China left in last September. They just need an excuse to not look so bad. And now they win. Everyone's pointing their fingers at China and forgetting about Google's failure.

Business is just business. Don't be over political.


Anonymous's picture

google has links to the nsa,

given that, maybe this is just another dig at china because of china's success in the middle-east & africa at negotiating oil & gas deals that america had it's eye's on.

when america want's fuel, it sends in the military - china sends in business negotiators.
guess which is more succesfull.

incidentally - afghanistan is the latest fail.

america wanted to run a pipeline from uzbekistan through afghanistan into a seaport in pakistan.
that's what it's all about.

the chinese just signed a deal with pakistan to take control of that sea port and intend to run a pipeline from it to iran and eventually china - via india.

that is why pakistan used to be a "friend" and now they just get terrorist drone-strikes.
it's america venting it's anger at losing the deal - afghanistan was all for nothing!

It's business...

Jerry McBride's picture

Google has been a stellar business model since it's inception. What they decide about China is just that, a business decision.

They will do well, for whatever reason.


---- Jerry McBride

why is The US any different than China?

Turgut Kalfaoglu's picture

If Google abides by the local laws of USA, including removing content based on pressure from influential groups from The US, why is China any different?

If they want to be fair and just, they should NOT remove ANY links, period - that's the Internet's philosophy.


It doesn't add up

Turgut Kalfaoglu's picture

Furthermore, the whole thing does not add up..
First you agree to the government's demands to filter results, and then because some hackers have seeped in, you suddenly no longer agree to filter results?

It's like saying someone broke my cell phone, so I won't go to the grocery store today. If you did not want to go to the grocery store, you didn't need to make up an excuse for it :)

It sounds like either:
1) Good found out that the cause of this hacking WAS the government (they are not saying that, but do they need to? Who else would hack into "Public activitists'" (aka "troublemakers) emails?

2) They found out it was too expensive to continue operations there, too many problems, etc, and they are using this incident as an excuse.

I'm betting on #1. In either case, it seems like a lame excuse.