After months of will-they-or-won’t-they speculation over Google’s threats to end its censorship in China, the search giant has finally pulled the plug. Now, visitors to Google.cn are redirected to its Hong Kong site, Google.com.hk, where they can view uncensored results. The switch – which Google claims is completely legal – has prompted backlash from the Chinese government, and has strained the relationship between Google and China. Despite making a risky decision, Google has rightly upheld its principles, at the same time showing users that they come first.
Senior Vice President David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote on the company’s official blog earlier this week, “We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.”
Unfortunately, even more restrictions were placed on them – leading Google to develop creative ways around the problem. Drummond also cited recent Gmail phishing scams and cyber attacks, discovered to be originating from China and targeting human rights activists, as another major reason they were pulling out. In doing so, Google hopes to protect its users from any future attack, while giving them greater search freedom and accessibility.
By pulling the plug in China, Google is upholding their motto and sticking to their guns in a bold way. In order to operate in China, Google has been forced adhere to the “Great Firewall,” set in place to keep citizens from accessing anti-Chinese Web content. Google knowingly agreed to follow these rules and restrictions when it entered the Chinese market in 2006, hoping its presence would prompt a movement towards greater online freedom. The move to end its self-censorship is right on-brand for Google, whose company motto is “Don’t be evil.” Though China might not see it as evil, censoring content goes against everything Google stands for.
Google’s actions this week, however insignificant they may seem to Internet users, have actually prompted major kudos from historians and activists who hope China’s human rights situation will be revisited. Google has shown that they are thinking beyond the bottom line, and that they are truly committed to providing the best services to users – no matter what conditions they face. Strategic thinking like this has enabled Google to grow as much as it has, from a small garage-based business to a worldwide entity worth more than $100 billion. Though the company still faces a tough climate in China, Google will undoubtedly continue to knock down similar challenges — censorship and freedom of information at the top of the list — leading the way for greater Internet freedom worldwide.
Google’s Share of the Search Engine Market, Sept. 2009
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