Google, China in Tense Standoff

Internet giant undecided whether to pull out, but says it will stop censorship.

ByABC News
January 13, 2010, 6:39 AM

Jan. 17, 2010 — -- When Google announced earlier this week that it was the victim of a series of cyber attacks it said originated in China, and that Gmail accounts of human rights activists had been hacked, it might have been the last straw for the company whose informal motto is "Don't Be Evil."

"Google probably thought that they were really good at defending their own networks and it turns out that while they were good, they weren't as good as the Chinese army," said James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Google probably thought they had a deal with the Chinese, so they were a little bit surprised," Lewis said.

Now Google says it will hold talks with Chinese officials in the coming weeks before making a decision to pull out altogether.

But the Internet giant says it has already decided to end the controversial practice of censoring its own Web site in China, a condition required by the central government for doing business in the mainland.

"In the last year or two, the environment has gotten more closed, not more open and so given all of this, we can just no longer in good conscience continue to filter, or to censor our search engine in China," Google chief legal officer David Drummond said.

The recent security breaches have further soured a relationship that was uneasy from its start four years ago. Google was always uneasy about agreeing to restrict access to sensitive subjects such as the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibetan independence, and the Falun Gong.

While critics accused Google of enabling the repression of free speech in the name of profit, Google said that it hoped that its presence in China might eventually lead to a more open Internet.