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Google Ends Censorship Of Search Results In China

Google has decided to redirect search queries from Chinese users to its Hong Kong site after an ongoing tug-of-war over the country's censorship regulations.

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Users who try to access Google.cn will now be transferred to a site based in Hong Kong that will generate uncensored search results, David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google, wrote in a blog post.

"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," Drummond wrote. "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.

Google's action indicates the breakdown of a signifianct business arrangement in which China was being watched around the world to see how it would act as a partner, said one expert.

"It is certainly a historic moment," said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet project at University of California at Berkeley, in an interview with The New York Times. "The Internet was seen as a catalyst for China being more integrated into the world. The fact that Google cannot exist in China, clearly indicates that China's path as a rising power is going in a direction different from what the world expected and what many Chinese were hoping for."

The Internet powerhouse first launched its Google.cn site in 2006, under an agreement with Chinese government officials to censor search results.

Following attacks on its Website by hackers allegedly originating from Chinese groups, Google decided it had enough and considered ending business in the country. Although Google.cn generated revenue to the tune of $150 million in the most recent quarter, according to The New York Times, the company can continue to rake in revenue as Chinese-based users connect to Google sites in the U.S. and abroad, including in Hong Kong.

Google has gained support from not only human rights groups, but also industry insiders for its bold move to protect censorship. However, Chinese users also valued the access to Google.cn, with some resting mourning wreaths at the company headquarters in Beijing, according to The New York Times.

With all eyes currently on Google, some industry insiders say it will still take a while to adjust, for both sides.

"They'll (Google) probably let it stay up for a bit, then quietly cut it off once the heat dies down," said Andrew Plato, president at Anitian Enterprise Security, a Beaverton, Ore.-based security solution provider. "Google's move would be risky for a lot of companies, but not for them. They have a lot of money and their business has a great deal of 'portability' to move outside of the confines of national boundaries."

Chinese users already can't access Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube because of current censorship restrictions. Additionally, other American companies such as Yahoo!, eBay and Amazon struggled to succeed in the tough Chinese market.

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