Google announced Monday it has stopped censoring its Chinese-language search engine Google.cn and was redirecting mainland Chinese users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong.
Google's move was hailed by rights groups but it might bring Google against the Chinese authorities.
On Monday, Google stopped topped censoring its search services - Google Search, Google News, and Google Images - on Google.cn. Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where Google is offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via the company's servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk. Google added that due to the increased load on its Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as Google switch everything over.
Google's decision comes two months after the company
by sophisticated cyber attacks originated from China. Early January, Google's investigations into those attacks had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China had been routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers.
"Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard," David Drummond, SVP, Google's Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer wrote at the company's blog
"We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we've faced?it's entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services. We will therefore be carefully monitoring access issues, and have created this new web page, which we will update regularly each day, so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China," he added.
Google also said it intended to continue research and development work in China and maintain a sales presence there.
"In terms of Google's wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk," Drummond added.
Google launched Google.cn in January 2006 after agreeing to censor
websites for content banned under Chinese law.
The Chinese gonverment controls online content in a vast system dubbed the "Great Firewall of China", removing information it deems harmful such as pornography and violent content, but also politically sensitive material.
Google's decision to end censorship in the country with the world's largest online population was welcomed by rights groups.