Google / China

Google, as you might have heard, threatened to pull out of China yesterday in the wake of cyberattacks that targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.  From Google's release:

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.

To be sure, we'll be watching this closely, so check back for updates.  In the meanwhile:

- Evgeny Morozov, the most cynical man on the internet, finds Google's motives highly dubious.

- Alec Ross, our friend at the State Department, is looking forward to Secretary Clinton's speech on web freedom next week.

- Digital Daily breaks down some of the business implications Google must have considered.

- Young Chinese netizens are leaving flowers at Google's offices in Beijing.