Thursday, February 23, 2006
Washington Post story finds Google partially standing up to China on censorship
At the last paragraph of this story, you find the potential for a
confrontation between Google and the Chinese government. Google says it
won't block availability of its uncensored, Chinese-language search engine
Chinese Media Assail Google
Internet Giant Said to Face Probe for Operating Without License
By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A09
BEIJING, Feb. 21 -- A state-run newspaper reported Tuesday that Google
Inc. is under investigation for operating without a proper license in
China and quoted an unnamed government official as saying the Internet
giant needs to cooperate further with the authorities in blocking "harmful
information" from its search results.
The report, in the Beijing News, was published the same day that another
state newspaper ran a harshly worded editorial about Google. The paper
accused the firm of sneaking into China like an "uninvited guest" and then
making a fuss about being required to follow Chinese law and cooperate in
censoring search results such as pornography.
The unusually bold attacks in the state media suggest that the Chinese
government is unhappy with Google's efforts thus far to filter politically
sensitive results from its popular search engine in China, and that its
ability to do business in the country may be in jeopardy.
Google's cooperation with the Chinese government in censoring the Internet
has already sparked outrage from free speech advocates and U.S. lawmakers
who accuse it of betraying its corporate motto, "Don't be evil." The firm
announced last month that it was launching a censored search engine,
Google.cn, to improve its service in China, where its regular site and its
search results are sometimes blocked.
Dubbed the "eunuch edition" by some Chinese Internet users, the new search
engine withholds results from Web sites the governing Communist Party
finds objectionable, and returns limited results when users enter
politically sensitive keywords.
Google has defended its decision to launch the censored site, arguing that
people in China can continue to use the Chinese version of its regular
search engine, Google.com. It has also pointed out that the new search
engine is the first in China to inform users when results have been
removed because of the government's "laws, regulations and policies."
But it appears Chinese authorities are now pressuring Google to cut off
access in China to its regular search engine, and to stop telling users of
the new site every time a search is censored.
"Is it necessary for an enterprise that is operating within the borders of
China to constantly tell your customers you are following domestic law?"
said the editorial published Tuesday in the China Business Times, a
Both the editorial and the Beijing News accused Google of operating its
new site without an ICP -- or Internet content provider -- license. The
editorial also accused Google of starting a debate about censorship in
China to draw attention away from its "illegal" activity. "Can Google get
away with this?" it asked.
In a written statement, Google spokeswoman Debbie Frost said Google uses a
license held by a local Chinese firm, Ganji.com, in an arrangement that is
common for foreign Internet firms in China.
A source familiar with the government's position said the Ministry of
Information Industries has raised the ICP license issue to put pressure on
Google to comply with its demands. He said the government wants Google to
make a larger investment in China and do more to censor its search
"The main problem isn't the ICP dispute, but the awkward relationship
between Google and the Chinese government," the source said. "To be
honest, the ICP dispute is a minor thing, and that's not what will get
Google into trouble."
Another Chinese source said Google recently rejected an urgent request to
remove from its stored Web pages information related to an internal
dispute at an influential Chinese agency. That information had been posted
on the Internet.
"Foreign-invested search engines must strengthen control and management of
how they handle search results with Chinese information," an unnamed
government official was quoted as saying in the Beijing News.
He said blocking "harmful information" from search results was a "very
practical problem," and added that Google "still needs to strengthen
cooperation with the government's relevant functional departments" in this
The Beijing News also quoted an unnamed Google official as saying it was
"very likely" that all Chinese searches on its regular site would be
redirected to the censored search engine because of "pragmatic
But in congressional testimony last week, Elliot Schrage, Google's vice
president for global communications, appeared to rule that out. "We will
not terminate the availability of our unfiltered Chinese-language
Google.com service," he said.
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