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China and Google playing game of Chicken over censorship


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Chinese authorities are pounding their desks over compliance with the law as Google's C-Day approaches. The "C" is for Censorship, of course, which Google plans to lift in China sometime in the near future. The company has been in talks with China ever since the highly publicized hack earlier this year, and although the two may not be in agreement over what to censor, it seems likely that Google will keep at least some of its business in China.

"Google has made its case, both publicly and privately," China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong told the press on Friday when questioned about censorship, according to Reuters. "If you don't respect Chinese laws, you are unfriendly and irresponsible, and the consequences will be on you."

Translation: in this game of chicken, the Chinese government won't be the one to budge. Meanwhile, a person "familiar with the talks" told the Wall Street Journal that the company isn't likely to pull out of China altogether if this censorship experiment goes sour. Google is apparently putting together a "patchwork agreement" with a number of different Chinese agencies so that it can continue operating to some degree in China.

One thing's for sure: the status quo won't hold. The WSJ's source claims a decision will come within weeks, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt indicated at a press conference in Abu Dhabi that "something will happen soon."

If Google opens the floodgates on previously censored topics like the Dalai Lama or the Tiananmen Square protests, there's little stopping China from taking measures to block the site like it already does with numerous others. There are plenty of workarounds for crafty Internet users, but we wouldn't be surprised to see this happen if China and Google are unable to come to an agreement.

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Beijing official warns Google to obey China's laws

A Chinese government minister has issued a stern warning to Google in the event the company stops filtering search results at its Chinese Web site: Follow our laws, or else.

Speaking to reporters at the National People's Congress on Friday, Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong said he hopes Google will respect China's rules and regulations. But, according to several press reports, he cautioned the company: "If you insist on taking this action that violates Chinese laws, I repeat: you are unfriendly and irresponsible, and you yourself will have to bear the consequences."

In January, Google set off alarm bells in the Chinese government when it announced that it would stop filtering search results at its Google.cn Web site. The company has been criticized in the past by privacy advocates for censoring search results deemed objectionable by the Chinese government. But such censorship has been one of the costs of doing business in a country where the Communist leadership keeps a tight lid on what its people can see. Content deemed harmful to Chinese citizens, everything from pornography to political debate, is simply filtered out.

The search giant's defiant stance was prompted as well by cyberattacks that have hit Google and other companies, aimed at compromising the Gmail accounts of several human rights activists in China and elsewhere. Google has identified China as the source of the attacks though has not revealed the specific people behind them. For its part, the Chinese government has denied any involvement.

Google has been negotiating with key agencies in China to determine whether it can run Google.cn with or without restrictions, and whether closing its Chinese search engine might impact other business ventures in the country. On Wednesday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that the negotiations with the Chinese government should result in a decision and resolution soon.

Also on Wednesday, Google deputy general counsel Nicole Wong told the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that the company is "no longer willing to censor its search results in China" and is currently reviewing its options. Wong added that if Google can't achieve its objectives, it will reconsider its approach to China.

Whatever Google decides to do with Google.cn, the company isn't likely to exit China completely, according to the Wall Street Journal, (subscription required) citing people familiar with the matter. A person familiar with the talks said that Google could made agreements with different Chinese agencies to operate each business segment separately, according to the Journal.

Minister Li told reporters that should Google abide by the rules, the company would be welcome to stay and expand in China. But he said that China's Internet would continue to grow with or without Google.

Source - CNET

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"If you don't respect Chinese laws, you are unfriendly and irresponsible, and the consequences will be on you."

How flawed is that reasoning :P

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