Google's stance on its ongoing business in China is outlined in a straightforward and clear fashion in this entry by Senior VP David Drummond, posted on the Google Blog. It's nice, by the way, to see a corporate talking this straight, clear and concisely.
The post is self-explanatory and follows the unearthing of a number of sophisticated hacks of Google and other sites. Those hacks appear to have been targeting the personal information of activists, dissidents and advocates of change in China - the implication being (although Google's language clearly avoids drawing any conclusions) that this move was the work of a government agency rather than a criminal organisation.
Google, it would appear, is pretty hacked off*.
It's clearly a shot across the bows for the Chinese government - Google has 'decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn' according to Drummond's post. The company has clearly made a decision about a situation it had always found uncomfortable (there has been much criticism of Google for its stance on China and censorship) - now we'll see how Google's negotiations with the Chinese government progress and whether this move results in access to uncensored search for the Chinese or Google pulling out of the country.
If Google has decided it can no longer tolerate the censorship of the Internet, it will be interesting to see how it will defend its operations in other world markets where censorship - for whatever reasons - is in place. Differentiating censorship of dissident voice and censorship for reasons of morality, for instance, starts us down a long and rocky path that would have to be carefully negotiated with a finely tuned 'moral compass'. And that doesn't even bring in commercially motivated censorship (banning Internet telephony providers, for instance), muckle-headed censorship (banning social media platforms) or straightforward, good old fashioned censorship (A number of .IL sites for a start).
Will Google pull out of Australia if the government goes ahead with its plan to censor the Internet? Or does a government have to combine a policy of censorship with egregious hacking behaviour before Goog steps out?