In a blog post by David Drummond, chief legal officer and SVP of corporate development, Google announced that it will redirect Google.cn web searches to Google.com.hk. Searches fielded by the servers in Hong Kong will be unfiltered and uncensored — and they’ll be available, at least for now, to virtual visitors from mainland China.
Effectively, Google has shut down its Chinese search engine, ostensibly because of Chinese censorship, though there’s more to the story than that. What follows is an excerpt from Drummond’s blog post:
On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other U.S. companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China, and that during our investigation into these attacks we had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers. We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered—combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger—had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn.
So earlier today we stopped censoring our 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 we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over.
Google has created a web page for daily updates on which of the company’s services are available in China. Drummond says Google will carefully monitor access issues.
More from Drummond:
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.
Some might think this story has concluded, but I have a feeling it will be with us for a while. Before Drummond’s blog post, the U.S. State Department had indicated that Google would be making an imminent announcement.