Last night, Google made huge news announcing that they will no longer censor their Chinese search engine, Google.cn after finding out the Chinese government may have made attempts to hack into Gmail to obtain information on Chinese activists. Google wrote:
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 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.
Yes, Google may have to completely leave China. This made major news, just see Techmeme. No matter the business impact, big or small. The move to leave China and not censor their results, is a major one. Google received a lot of negative feedback from the world after launching a censored version of Google China in January 2006. The censorship was pretty clear, in images and even resulting on blocking Google.com in the past.
This comes shortly after Kai-Fu Lee leaving the President position at Google China and Baidu making impressive moves in the market. I hope this isn't a face-saving way for Google to back out of a market where they are not dominant.
When I first heard this I immediately saw the huge red herring potential. Google has relatively little to lose in China, so it's not going to impact their bottom line to the extent that pulling out of another more established market might. It would be very easy for them to go along with this censorship line and claim they had no other recourse.
I believe Larry Page and Sergie Brin are probably thinking, 'yeah, maybe our business dealings with Hilter or Stalin or Mao won't looks so good in history books in the future.' in respect to selling their soul to Communist China for profits.
I commend your stand on China's censorship.