Google turns from the dark side

Will Google's new stance on censorship count in the Middle East too?

Tags: CensorshipChinaGoogle Incorporated
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Google turns from the dark side
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 13, 2010

It looks a lot like grandstanding, but Google has finally announced that it will no longer go along with the Chinese government and censor search results on www.google.cn, its local site for China.

The move comes after a disturbing rash of systematic hacks on the email accounts of a number of human rights protesters worldwide, not to mention the ongoing disapproval from private individuals and governments over Google's decision to comply with the Chinese government and censor its search results.

In a strongly-worded statement on the official Google blog, David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, wrote:

"We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.

"We have decided 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. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

Stern stuff, and good to see 'Don't be evil' Google finally showing some backbone, but it was in the face of both a lot of pressure worldwide, and a rather meagre 11% market share in China. What will be interesting for the Middle East will be if this new, principled Google will now revisit its stance on censorship in the region, which has previously including censoring search results in Turkey, and discussions with Dubai police, reportedly on censoring YouTube in the UAE.

It's not a particularly straight comparison between the organised hacking, spying, dirty tricks and oppression allegedly practiced by the Chinese government, and the 'moral and religious' censorship that's widely known about and practiced by ISPs on government orders in the Middle East, but can Google really take a stance on freedom of information principles in China, while being willing to work against it in the Middle East?

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