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Google was Pressured by China on Internet Censorship : Wikileaks

Google trying its best to operate its search engine in china has worsened after a high ranking Chinese official Googled himself and found “results critical oh him” as reported by a new cable released by Wikileaks on Saturday.

One of the members of china’s top ruling body believed that the company’s main search engine at Google.com was illegal after it discovered that the site is providing uncensored search results as claimed by an unnamed source in a cable released in may 2009. The official also demanded that the search giant should remove the link to Google.com from the company’s censored China-based search engine available at Google.cn.

In the cable which was recently released, the official name was deleted but New York Times report has mentioned the name in question. He is the member of China’s Politburo Standing Committee Mr. Li Chanchun and is also considered s the chief propaganda for china. The WikiLeaks cable had earlier mentioned Li as the government official who oversaw the December 2009 hacking attack on Google’s computer systems.

The release of the cables came months after Google had already decided to pull back some of its operations in the country. In the month of March, Google announced it would stop censoring its search results in the country, a requirement that was imposed on by the Chinese government. From March onwards company’s Google.cn page which redirected the users to Google’s Hong Kong search engine, providing them with unfiltered results. However The Chinese government still censors out searches from the page.

The recent released cable, along with another dated July 2009, had claimed that the Chinese government had taken lots of efforts not just once but twice to force Google to meet its demands on Internet censorship. From the year 2007 to 2009, Google had been receiving numerous requests for the company to remove the Google.com link from the Google.cn page.

As a forum of retribution the Chinese officials have asked the three state- owned telecommunications companies to stop working with them as claimed in the cables. The Wikileaks has stated that following the company’s three-year history of facing periodic blockages of its services by the Chinese government Google was also being “harassed”. However, Google was adamant on this front and held its position on not removing the link, with the company’s lawyers believing they found “no legal basis for China’s demands.”

As the Chinese government has claimed that the website Google.com is an illegal in order for the justification of its request for removal of the link. As a twist the Chinese law has refused to go about the demand by the government and to identify the site as illegal as thousands of other Chinese websites include links to google.com. Google further clear out its position by saying that keeping the link on the Google.cn page was one of the key principles that the company has to uphold at the time to testify to U.S. Congress about entering into the China market.

China is also demanding to take action against Google Earth images. The reason behind this is that, China’s military nuclear and space installations, as well as other sensitive government facilities, which may act as assets to terrorists and can create some “grave consequences”. However Google refused to comment on this and so did china’s foreign minister.

As the new result Google has applied for a necessary license with the Chinese government in order to continue the operation of its online mapping service within China only on the basis that Google must locate its online mapping servers within China to meet the license requirements.

Google and China Reach Compromise?

Google began its invasion of China few years ago with big compromises. It agreed to filter specific topics out of the search results. The measure was requested by the communist Chinese government, so they could have better control over the nformation flow within China, and block access of progressive Chinese people to unfiltered by government sources information.

Such compromise was widely criticized these days by many people around the world as non democratic, but given the enormous dimensions of Chinese market, many western companies did the same thing to be allowed to it. With the time everything seemed OK for both sides, and Google.cn was gaining popularity during the years in China. When this popularity reached certain point, both participants began to shift their positions slightly. Chinese authorities wanted bigger control, and even more topics and keywords added to filtering. Google wanted to remove filtering routines at all (not only because they are for the free of speech, more searches and results equals more revenue from ads too) and was pressing hard.

Then came a key moment, when Chinese hackers decided to have some fun with Google’s information servers. Maybe the attack was well planned by Chinese authorities, maybe not, no one will ever know that. But the result was that Google had formal reason to stop work in China and show the government what public opinion can do, even in communist country.

The New compromise

After searches became impossible for normal Chinese citizen, and with the hardened position of the government, it seemed Google is making the surprising decision to leave Chinese market for good. The government of China was also hurt by the crisis, as most of their people believed Google was intentionally kicked out. Both sides were loosing this way – Google was loosing enormous developing market, and authorities suffered from the bad public reaction to their actions.

The tie ended few days ago, when Google.cn returned. Well, kind of returned anyway. When you enter the site from China, you are presented with what looks perfectly normal Google search box. Only when you click on it you understand that it is just an image, hyperlinked to another site – Google.hk – the Hong Kong version of the site, which is totally unfiltered. This way both sides are happy to some extent – Google gets back their Chinese followers, even with the need of one more click. And Chinese authorities can always say they never allowed Google to resume their normal operations in China – after all Google.cn site only contains static content.

Of course when a Chinese uses this hole in Chinese firewall, he or she should always remember that local filters and loggers are always active, ad one who attempts anti-government many actions for example will most probably be caught and prosecuted for their actions.

Google: Google.cn Fully Blocked, Users: What Block?

After a daring attempt to stop censoring search results, Google.cn is reportedly totally blocked in China. This, six months after Google announced its refusal to let the Chinese government control it’s displayed results on their search engine.

According to Google’s Mainland China service availability page, web searches in China have been fully blocked since the 29th of July. Other services have also been blocked except for Gmail. Fully blocked for Google means there are 67 percent to 100 percent accessibility disruptions.

The service disruption seems a bit unclear as to whether it’s brought upon by the Chinese Government or it’s just a server mishap. Some Twitter users have denied the fact that there were accessibility disruptions on their part.

A Little History

Last January, Google’s official blog published a stunning statement regarding its stance on the Chinese government’s censorship. Even with the threat of Google.cn being shutdown, they were adamant about their views on the subject.

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.”

According to the blog, it also noticed some attacks on their structure by mid-December last year. Although they have considered these attacks a minor security breach at first, later on they found out otherwise. Apparently these attacks resulted to the theft of “intellectual property” of Google. These attacks were not only brought on to Google alone; there were “at least twenty other large businesses from a wide range of businesses.” Google also noted there were also attempts to hack the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. However, the blog was quick to note that those attempts were unsuccessful.

March this year, to further their efforts of providing the Chinese public uncensored information, Google announced that they have stopped censoring Google Search, Google News and Google Images.

At the end of June, Google was a bit worried about their then upcoming ICP license renewal.

However on July 9th, they were pleased that the “government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China.”

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