Google in China | Google stands up for net neutrality

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 By

The Google logo at their Kirkland, WA offices.

Google is the best-known name in search in most of the world - but Google's China operations will be shutting down. Image from Flickr.

Google is the nearly indisputable king of internet searches; last month alone, it claimed 72.11 percent of all searches in the U.S., according to HitWise. It makes sense, then, that Google would be trying to break into China, where the number of internet users exceeds the entire population of the U.S., according to the McKinsey Quarterly. Google initially censored many search results in order to comply with the government in China – blocking results about democracy, pay day loans, and Tienanmen Square. However, it appears that Google and China have reached an impasse in negotiations about censorship, and google.cn, the Chinese-based portal for Google will be shutting down.

Google’s China-based search

Google.cn, the Google China web site, started in 2005. Originally, Google had agreed to censor search results in China to meet with the Chinese government’s requirements. Google took some very heated opposition to this move, but the proposition of getting their “foot in the door” to the very large Chinese market encouraged Google to work with the requirements of the government in China. There were some that accused Google, a very public supporter of net neutrality of putting their principles on the back shelf by agreeing to censor their results. Like short term loans for bad credit, Google was willing to take out some search results in order to get things on track.

The disagreement between Google and China

After the initial anger about Google censoring its search results to meet with China’s government regulations died down, things remained fairly quiet until January of this year. On Jan. 12, Google announced a “New approach to China.” This move came as the result of cyber attacks not only on Google, but on the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists and advocates. At that point, Google announced that it would no longer be censoring search results in China. The government in China, as reported by the BBC agreed to talks with Google about censoring practices. However, the New York Times reports that those talks appear to have broken down. Nicole Wong, Google’s Vice President outlined in a statement:

“We are no longer willing to censor our search results in China, and we are currently reviewing our options. If the option is that we’ll shutter our .cn operation and leave the country, we are prepared to do that.

China has gone so far as to warn Google partners in China that they need to find “alternatives” to their Google search boxes.

History of internet censorship in China

The government in China, for the most part, appears to be very unconcerned about Google’s decision to remove its censored search engine. This is, in part, because China has a fairly well-developed system of internet censorship that they have been monitoring and using for years. Known as the “great Firewall,” there is a massive no-access blockage to many web sites available online.

Many popular web sites, such as YouTube and Wikipedia, are also heavily restricted based on certain topics. China also requires internet users to provide personal information to log onto the internet in Internet cafes, where most internet users in China log on. This massive effort of information control is known as the “Golden Shield Project.” Many U.S. companies, such as Google, have altered the way they do business in China in order to work with their huge population and growing economic power.

What Google will do with China

Now that Google is “most likely” shutting down its Google.cn operations, internet users in China will most likely not be able to access Google.com. Though they will be effectively cutting themselves out of a very large market, Google’s handling of the government in China is just the latest of a long string of U.S. Companies clashing with the Chinese government. Google has stated that it hopes users in China will continue to use Google.com, though in reality, Google will most likely lose the market share available in China.

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