January 12, 2010 | By Danny O'Brien

Uncensoring China: Bravo Google

Google has publicly announced that that it will cease censorship of its Chinese language, Google.cn website, and is reviewing the feasibility of its entire operation in that country. This follows its detection of malicious attacks on the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists and what Google calls an "attack on their corporate infrastructure originating from China."

When Google first launched a filtered search engine in China, EFF was one of the first to criticize it; we'd now like to be one of the first to commend Google for its brave and forthright declaration to provide only an uncensored Chinese language version of its search engine.  

Our hope is that other tech companies will follow Google's lead. Too many of them have been willing to comply with Chinese demands that they check their values at the border.

Of course, whatever the reaction from Chinese authorities, this doesn't mean that Google will vanish from the Chinese Internet. There continue to be many ready means for circumventing China's censorship schemes, and we hope Google will continue to provide an uncensored Chinese language search engine, from servers outside China if need be.

We recognize that there may be short-term economic and political consequences for the company: but if it stands firm in its commitment to provide Chinese citizens with an uncensored view of the Net, we feel sure there will be opportunities and benefits not just for Chinese citizens, but for Google and companies that follow its lead.

The Internet is global, but it relies on a physical infrastructure that is vulnerable to national policies and clumsy attempts to block and censor. The Chinese authorities will no doubt continue to try to censor the Internet as seen by their own citizens, and malicious attacks will continue against those who seek to use uncensored services and secure communications in the exercise of human rights. Google has stepped up to this challenge: now it's up to technologists and policymakers to build the tools and to apply the political, economic and cultural pressure to allow citizens in repressive regimes to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through an uncensored Net and maintain their access to the collective knowledge of humanity that it makes possible.

In the original text of this commentary, we stated that Google "restored" an uncensored Chinese language version of its search engine, which is inaccurate. As well as the filtered google.cn, Google has always provided an uncensored Chinese index on its google.com site.


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