Google Toes Line in China: Tries to Stay Uncensored, Legal, and Available

Google Hong Kong

Google's presence in China is pretty small at the moment, since the company very loudly withdrew from the country amid federal investigations into hacking that may or may not have originated somewhere in the Chinese government. So Google took down Google.cn, the company's Chinese site, as part of an anti-censorship protest, and instead have been redirecting searches to Google.hk, Google's Hong Kong site.

But now it appears even that is too much presence for the Chinese government to allow from Google, and China has apparently communicated to Google that the country's authorities will not renew Google's Internet Content Provider license. Without that license, Google would go completely AWOL in China.

Google's solution is to remove the automatic redirect and instead use a landing page that provides both a link to Google.hk and links to Google's Chinese services like music and text translate. Those services were not censored by the government (it's hard to have a translator that maligns the State), so they have remained intact and running.

Google can probably keep finding solutions like this that land them barely—just barely—on the legal side in China. But obviously it's not preferable. Google's statement:

As a company we aspire to make information available to users everywhere, including China. 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. This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self censor and, we believe, with local law. We are therefore hopeful that our license will be renewed on this basis so we can continue to offer our Chinese users services via Google.cn.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one—you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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