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Google Takes the Tiger by the Tail

Google's stoush with China has taken another dramatic turn, with Google redirecting Chinese search users to the Hong Kong Google page. Critically, the Hong Kong page is not censored, or at least it is not censored to the extent the Chinese search page and results were. To highlight the level of blocking of various Google services, a new Google page that will be daily updating, describes exactly what services are blocked within China and to what extent.

Despite the appearances in the last few weeks that the disagreement between the two parties had at least settled to a mutual disagreement, this sudden, significant move by Google is bound to cause flow on effects across the wider Internet. Critics might argue that it is the first sign of Google pulling out of the Chinese market altogether, given the dominance of local search giant, Baidu.

Google's own argument is that it is a viable compromise between their desire to provide the least level of censorship possible (preferably none, but sites get removed from all versions of Google's searches) whilst still allowing mainland Chinese users access to Google search results. Going further, Google acknowledge that this action may lead to their services being blocked by China. They also point out that the decision to do the blocking was made by Google's American executives and not by any Chinese employee - an apparent effort to avoid any repercussions for Google's Chinese workforce.

Google may very well have trapped the tiger by the tail with this move. A line has been crossed and it will be a matter of waiting to see China's response, if any.

23 March 2010

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