Google is no longer going to censor itself in China:
We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that “we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.”
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.
The attack Google is talking about is “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google” in December in which “a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists”. (They believe they were unsuccessful.)
Google’s original claim that it was compromising its principles in China because it thought it could do more good than harm may have seemed cynical and unbelievable at the time: but it turning around and refusing to be complicit a moment longer, profits be damned, once it becomes clear that the reverse is true, bolsters their credibility considerably.
The fact that the Chinese government will continue to oppress its citizens regardless of whether we participate is not a reason to participate anyway.
Good on Google for finally seeing that.
ELSEWHERE: The ALP reveals its plans to pass its censorship filter this year but only implement it after the next election, so gullible voters will think “it’s passed and my internet’s still fine”, and so there’ll be as long a time as possible between the discovery that it’s not and a chance to do something about it at the ballot box.
And the UK government presses ahead with its plan to make all British internet users pay to fight “piracy”, and force 40,000 poorer households offline.
UPDATE #2: Surprisingly enough it seems that Google is still censoring itself when the subject is Islam. Type “judaism is” or “christianity is” or “buddhism is” into the search engine, and it will suggest several unflattering conclusions for the phrase. Type “islam is”, and it is strangely silent.
Google claims that’s a bug and they’re going to fix it.