#GoogleCN News Roundup

#GoogleCN News Roundup

Editor’s note: I’ve cross posted this entry on the Difficult Problems in Cyberlaw blog.

Today Google announced that they will slowly withdraw their search functionality from a censored China, or in their words:

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.

I’ve decided to amass together a collection of the most relevant and interesting points of view and facts coming out of today’s news.

A first point of interest is the actual bit.ly link itself, as bit.ly posts click statistics for links on their site. When I tweeted it today the clickthroughs were around 13,000, but I have no doubts that the number will reach 130,000 by tomorrow morning.

CNBC also has an interview with David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer discussing the details of today’s blogpost. Drummond explains that a number of gmail accounts were being accessed by third parties, Google suspects that these were not the result of hacking, but rather phishing scams or computer viruses. He encourages users to have the most updated operating systems and browsers.

Jonathan Zittrain argues

But [Google] drawing [the] line is both the right move and a brilliant one. It helps realign Google’s business with its ethos, and masterfully recasts the firm in a place it will feel more comfortable: supporting the free and open dissemination of information rather than metering it out according to undesirable (and capricious) government standards.

Rebecca MacKinnon, who is currently an Open Society Fellow and co-founder of Global Voices and was previously CNN’s Beijing correspondent and Bureau Chief from 1998-2001 writes about reactions from people in China, including the censoring of Google’s announcement when translated to Chinese. She links to the Chinese Digital Times that is translating Chinese tweets to English. She reports that many are happy or are already able to circumvent censorship to use services such as Twitter in the first place, while others are disappointed and even mourning the loss of Google.

James Fallows, writes a blog for The Atlantic, explaining his support for China’s economic growth insofar as he does not see this as a threat to other countries,

but its government is on a path at the moment that courts resistance around the world. To [him], that is what Google’s decision signifies.

Tech Crunch’s Sarah Lacy brings up three advantages for Google leaving China:

1. Google’s business was not doing well in China
2. Google is ready to burn bridges
3. This is only going to be a trickier issue in the next decade.

She advocates that Yahoo, in leaving the country years ago facilitated a smarter business move.

The Wall Street Journal likens the anti-censorship movement to the GOOG’s “Don’t be evil” policy.

And Business Insider’s Silicon Valley Insider states that

In a note this evening, JPMorgan analyst Imran Khan estimates Google’s China revenue at around $600 million this year, with segment margins around 15% to 20%,

and in another post

Baidu shares are up 6.99% after hours to $413.52, while Google shares are down 1.13% to $583.80.

And as of September 2009, according to Softpedia, Baidu had 77% of the search market in China while Google.cn was at 12.7%. With both these facts, I find no surprise that searching “Baidu stock” will land you things like this:

@NewspaperGrl Bad news: Google may pull out of China – Good News: I have Baidu stock: http://bit.ly/4MAjhJ /cc via @zittrain @chrismessina

Imagethief explains

Google has taken the China corporate communications playbook, wrapped it in oily rags, doused it in gasoline and dropped a lit match on it. In China, foreign companies tend to be deferential to the authorities to the point of obsequiousness, in a way that you would almost certainly never encounter in the United States or Europe. Scan any foreign company’s China press releases and count the number of times you see the phrase, “commitment to China”.

Issac Mao, who has been a blogger in China since 2002 writes an open letter to Google’s founders, advocating for Google to stay in China and lauding anti-censorship practices. The post outlines three ideas for Google’s China relationship, to start a venture fund for cutting-edge tech sites and companies in China, to develop anti-censorship tools and to increase the appeal for Chinese Google Adsense users. What’s most interesting is that the post is dated “2007-02-09,” meaning that the post was written years before today.

Comments

Kit Keaton at Fast Company argues that there's a big negative if Google pulls out of China, i.e., Google would lose all leverage to affect China's human rights decisions.

I agree to an extent. Yes, an enormous, well-regarded, semi-open company would no longer be burrowing into the Chinese culture. But as others have pointed out, pulling out of China may not restrict access to Google: in fact, it looks as though Google's profit considerations may oblige it to be more active in helping the Chinese circumvent government internet restrictions.