Google's move to shutter Google.cn and reroute users to Google.hk March 22 represents an interesting move on the part of the search engine, which trails Chinese search leader Baidu in that country. Here are some interesting points about this story, which won't end with Google's latest move.
move to shutter Google.cn
and reroute users to Google.hk March 22 represents an
interesting move on the part of the search engine, which trails Chinese search
leader Baidu in that country.
Google's move covers its Google Search, Google News and
Google Images sites on Google.cn, all of which users may access uncensored at
Google's Hong Kong site Google.com.hk
in simplified Chinese.
The Chinese government has
Google for the move, which stems from a massive cyber-attack
that resulted in the accessing of Gmail accounts of
Chinese human rights activists.
Gartner analyst Whit
Andrews told eWEEK Google essentially thought it would take the business out
of China where it can't tolerate censorship, then "Let's
see if I can locate it nearby [Hong Kong] in a way that would give China the
possibility to save face and give me a way for me to save face. Well, it
doesn't look like it's working, does it?"
Andrews said that from the Chinese perspective, censorship
is non-negotiable. "Their take is 'This is a law. We put the law in and
now you have to follow it. If you don't follow it, you don't get to do business
Here are some interesting points about this story, which
won't end with Google's latest move.
1) How Can Google Get Away with Rerouting Searches to Hong
For citizens of countries with one government, this is an
interesting point. China has had since the 1980s a "One Country, Two Systems
" policy. This holds that while there is only one
China, Hong Kong and other areas enjoy their own economic and political
Google, as Danny Sullivan
, is looking to do an end-run around China's censorship laws with this
move. While Google's legal eagle David Drummond said in a statement that "we
very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision," there
is certainly some ambiguity as to whether this is legal or not, as Sullivan
noted: "If it's entirely legal, then Google shouldn't need to be hoping."
2) To Whit
To our ears, this sounds like a tightrope walk to trouble. Gartner's
Andrews added: "If Google said this was illegal, then you know China
have to block it. China can't have someone thwarting them." What Google
has to say is it believes it's legal, but that it isn't sure (hence,
"hope" in Drummond's statement).
Indeed, Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the New York Times
: "We got reasonable indications that this was O.K.
We can't be completely confident." This fuzziness keeps Google from
seeming to be blatantly disregarding Chinese law, even though the Chinese
government is bound to see this as a transgression.
3) Censorship Still Very Much in Effect on Google.hk
While searches within the Google.hk are not censored by
Google, they will still be affected by China's keyword filtering, so some
queries won't not get through to google.com.hk search engine, according to
censorship expert Nart Villeneuve, who noted
"Even if a user in China uses search queries that
are not filtered by China and retrieves results from Google's .hk version, they
will still be affected by China's filtering if they click on the link and try
and view those results directly. What's the difference? Users in China will be
affected by China's filtering, not Google's. The difference is in the user's
experience - instead of retrieving results and carrying on as if censorship did
not exist, the user now experiences the censorship first hand."