Three months ago, Google defiantly announced it would no longer censor search results for users in mainland China. Now, with the Chinese government threatening to not renew the site’s operating license, the search giant is softening that stance.
In March, Google began redirecting mainland Chinese users to its Hong Kong site, google.com.hk, which is not censored. Google took the action after detecting what it said were hacking attacks on Gmail accounts linked to human-rights workers with ties to China, as well as other kinds of “surveillance.” The move was cheered by international groups and those critical of China’s regime.
This week, though, Google said it will revise that strategy as it seeks to renew its “Internet Content Provider” license in China, which expires today. Without ICP approval, Google China would go dark, and the company says it would rather have some presence in the country than none at all. The compromise Google now proposes would reestablish a landing page at Google.cn, but which contains a link to the freer Google.com.hk site. After clicking, users could use the search function without censorship.
All of this is subject to the Chinese government’s renewal of Google’s ICP license, which the company submitted for approval Monday. With Chinese President Hu Jintao’s upcoming visit to the U.S., The New York Times reports, China is unlikely to make any decisions on Google soon.