Google June 28 said it will cease rerouting visitors to its Google.cn search engine to its Google.hk portal after the Chinese government threatened not to renew its operating license in the country. Google, which resubmitted its application to operate in China, has started taking a "small percentage" of its Google.cn users to a landing page on Google.cn that links to Google.com.hk. There, users can conduct Web searches or use uncensored Google.cn services such as product search, music and text translate.
Citing threats from China's
government that would make its search engine go dark in the country, Google
June 28 said it will cease rerouting visitors to its Google.cn search engine to
its Google.hk portal.
The search engine is instead shuttling users to a special landing page on Google.cn
where users can continue to search without seeing censored results.
Following a cyber-attack
that originated in China,
the search engine in March began redirecting
all searchers to its mainland Google.cn
portal to Google.hk to avoid Chinese censorship. Google offers search
unfiltered in simplified Chinese there.
While Google claims this has been working fine for users and Google, the
Chinese government has let Google know it does not appreciate the redirect,
which it sees an end-run around its censorship laws.
"It's clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government
officials that they find the redirect unacceptable-and that if we continue
redirecting users our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed
(it's up for renewal on June 30)," David Drummond, Google's senior vice
president of corporate development and chief legal officer, said
in a blog post.
"Without an ICP license, we can't operate a commercial Website like
Google.cn-so Google would effectively go dark in China."
Google has started taking a "small percentage" of its Google.cn
users to a landing page on Google.cn that links to Google.com.hk. There, users
can still conduct Web searches or use uncensored Google.cn services such as
product search, music and text translate.
Google, which resubmitted its ICP license renewal application based on this
approach, will end the redirect entirely and shuttle all Chinese users to this new landing
over the next few days.
The landing page features the Google logo and a non-functioning search box,
below which sits a message that reads, "We have moved to Google.hk."
Clicking anywhere on this landing page redirects users to Google.hk.
Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Google's latest workaround to the
censorship dilemma. Google believes the approach ensures it stays true to its
commitment not to censor results on Google.cn and gives users access to its services
from one page.
"As a company we aspire to make information available to users
everywhere, including China,"
Drummond said. "It's why we have worked so hard to keep Google.cn alive,
as well as to continue our research and development work in China."
The move shows that Google is willing to bend but not break in its quest to
conduct business in a country that boasts more than 400 million Web users, a
valuable market Google can't afford to be shut out of.
While China only accounts for 1 to 2 percent of Google's search ad revenues,
the company has already lost search share to China's No. 1 search player Baidu
as a result of its moves.
Google, Yahoo and some 20 total companies late last year were the victims of
the cyber-attack, in which hackers accessed Gmail accounts via phishing scams
or malware placed on users' computers.
In retaliation, Google threatened to stop censoring results on Google.cn;
rerouting users to Google.hk was its way of going about this.