Making good on its promise to stop censoring results of its Chinese language website earlier this year, Google announced on Monday that its uncensored search services are now live. Chinese Internet users searching at google.cn are now redirected to google.com.hk, where its Chinese language results are delivered through its servers in Hong Kong. Google is also cleverly keeping public track of the availability of its services in China.
Google’s decision to stop censoring in China is a watershed moment for the free and open global Internet. The corporate decision was undoubtedly a difficult one, where the commitment to freedom of expression and the self-determination of its customers were among the considerations that won out over likely concerns of market share loss and strong political pressure. Before its new year’s resolution, Google had been complicit for four years with the Chinese government’s efforts to exert centralized control over the Internet, hoping that it could find a compromise solution to make Google available to Chinese citizens with the integrity of Web search intact. Google's decision that it could no longer participate in censorship is a profound recognition of social responsibility in selling technology. We hope other companies who have made commitments against collaboration with the architecture of censorship will follow their lead.
Initial reports from on the ground indicate that google.com and google.com.hk are being at least partially blocked by the Chinese authorities, though inconsistently. The availability of uncensored Chinese search through Google's Hong Kong servers inevitably raises the tide of free flows of information through the already known cracks in the Great Firewall of China. For those Chinese citizens determined to speak freely and to have access to the global Internet, there will always be tools available to circumvent the censorship systems, at least in part. With its actions, Google has garnered good will among those Chinese Internet users who want access to a free and open Internet as well as with all those who fight censorship in the rest of the world.