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Google has taken the bold step of ceasing to censor their search services — Google Search, Google News, and Google Images — on their China presence, Google.cn.
Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where the search giant is now offering “uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong”.
“We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services,” says the search leader.
Google says it will be “carefully monitoring” access, and have created a new web page where users can see which of the Google services are available in China.
“Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over,” says Google on its official blog.
Earlier this year the company announced that it and more than 20 other US companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China.
The company claims that during their investigation into these attacks they had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers.
Google adds: “We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered—combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger — had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn.”
“Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement,” says Google.
“In terms of Google’s wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk.”
Google emphasises that their decision to uncensor Google’s China operations were “driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them. Despite all the uncertainty and difficulties they have faced since we made our announcement in January…”