Google Calls for U.S., Europe to Crack Down on China Web Censorship

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-10

Google wants the U.S. and European governments to nudge China to cease its censorship of the Internet, the search engine's lead lawyer told the Associated Press in Brussels.

David Drummond, chief legal officer and senior vice president of corporate development at Google, June 9 said that China's censorship restricts free trade for the Web, where Google is hungry to expand in China.

Western governments should defend the free trade for the Internet with the same kind of rules that they use to complain of China's sale of products below cost, Drummond added.

Censorship in the form of the Great Firewall of China has been a long-standing complaint about China from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other companies looking to extend their tendrils in Asia while enjoying the same fair trade rules they enjoy in the U.S.

The sticky issue reared its head again in January when Google said it discovered a cyber attack originating from China in which users Gmail accounts were accessed.

Threatening to cease doing business in China entirely, Google in March shuttled its Chinese search operations to the region of Hong Kong, which doesn't follow the same censorship restrictions as mainland China.

Shortly after this move, Google co-founder Sergey Brin told The Guardian he hoped the U.S. would make China's Web censorship a "high priority."

While the U.S. publicly supported Google's position, little has happened on this front.

In country, U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration are dealing with issues such as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, in which thousands of barrels of crude oil are blotting the Gulf of Mexico each day.

Drummond called the hack attack the "final straw" and reinforced the company's stance that China's censorship restricts free trade.

"Censorship, in addition to being a human rights problem, is a trade barrier," said Drummond, according to the AP. "If you look at what China does - the censorship, of course, is for political purposes but it is also used as a way of keeping multinational companies disadvantaged in the market."

"It should be obvious that the Internet sector is very important to the west and so we should be working on seeing that that kind of trade is protected."

Holding sway in China is crucial to Google's hopes for international expansion. China boasts more than 400 million Web users and Baidu is the leading search engine in mainland China. Being marginalized at won't do anything to help Google challenge the incumbent there.

The U.S. could make a case versus China with the World Trade Organization, though Drummond wouldn't go so far as to suggest that.

He did say he received some support in the U.S., French and German governments and with the European Union executive for pressing Google's case against Chinese Web censorship.

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