Google Takes A Stand For Free Speech, Won't Censor China Search Results

Stating that things "just got real" wouldn't even begin to do this situation justice. Google, which has maintained a Chinese search portal ( since 2006, has just upended the nation's stronghold on content, and while it remains to be seen if any other search engines will follow suit, there's no denying that serious attention is now being given to a matter that has remained in the shadows for far too long.

After a "targeted attack" on Google's corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property, the search giant began to think long and hard about its relationship with the country. Google also maintains offices in China, and it has stated that the employees there have worked extremely hard to make a real success. This attack, however, began to change things. Google began to look into the matter, and it soon realized that these attacks were made on those who support human rights and free speech within China.

Today, Google is a powerhouse. It's not a second-tier company; it's a world-class company with clout for days. So much clout, in fact, that Google has just made public its decision to cease the censoring of content from Chinese searches. The company has decided that the time has come to put an end to the censorship that has lived on within China's Internet walls, and Google fully understands that this move may make working in China impossible. Executives plans on meeting with Chinese leaders soon to hammer out a new plan, but of course if one cannot be reached, Google will reportedly pull right out of the nation. We sincerely hope this bold move encourages others to take similar stands for free speech, but only time will tell if Google has a bandwagon backing it or just its own faith. A portion of the statement is below:

We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.

We launched 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, 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, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.