Google Inc. posted a stunning blog on Tuesday, announcing cyber attacks and censorship were forcing the Internet giant to consider shutting down its website and offices in China.
Thousands of blogspots, search results and websites, including Google’s video-sharing site YouTube, remain inaccessible in China as the communist leadership tries to prevent social discontent against its rule from spreading through online data and opinions.
Facebook and Twitter are still blocked since ethnic riots erupted in northwest Xinjiang last July.
“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,’’ said the statement by Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond on Tuesday.
“We recognise this may well mean shutting down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China,’’ Drummond said.
Till Wednesday evening, Beijing had no official reaction on Google’s threatened walkout from the lucrative market of over 350 million netizens.
“We should not take the Google threat lightly,’’ analyst Sandeep Aggarwal at Collins Stewart told Reuters. “They care about users’ privacy and if that privacy comes under challenge it may impact their global business”.
Drummond said the decision was forced by a ‘highly sophisticated’ cyber attack from China in mid-December.
“This attack was not just on Google,’’ Drummond said. “At least 20 large companies — including the Internet’s finance, technology, media and chemical sectors — have been similarly targeted.”
Google said that dozens of accounts of rights activists in the US, Europe and China have also been ‘routinely’ accessed by third parties.
When Google.cn launched in 2006, the company agreed to limit content under Chinese censorship rules, but could not effectively compete with China’s top search engine Baidu that will gain most from its exit.