Google has made a stand against the censorship imposed on its Chinese service. They are to stop the self censorship of its search engine results.
The news comes as a result of a serious cyber attack from within China on Google and 20 other global brands, stealing part of their intellectual property. It has discovered that the Gmail accounts of dozens of US-, China- and Europe-based users who are advocates of human rights in China appeared to have been routinely accessed by third parties. As part of these malicious attacks only personal account information appears to have been targeted. They originate in China but Google do not name where they think these attempts to hack into accounts is coming from.
Human Rights Watch praised the decision saying, "A transnational attack on privacy is chilling, and Google's response sets a great example."
However, Google say that they are not sharing this information because of the security or human rights issues "but because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech".
Over the next couple of weeks they will be in discussion with Chinese authorities to see if an unfettered Google can operate within the law in China. The world leading search engine admits that if this cannot be done they may have to close their Chinese operations.
It is a great, bold and courageous step for Google to have made. Are the attacks against them to gain information that the Chinese have censored? Or to get information from the authorities on those that they don't want to speak? Or a direct attack on Google for kow-towing to the Chinese demands to self-censor? While the motivation for the attacks is not clear the message that Google are sending is you can either take the entirety of the world's online knowledge or leave it.
There is too be no more bowing to powers that be over what is or isn't acceptable for their citizens to view, that is for them to decide. Of course some sites which are of a global security concern that Google and ISPs will continue to hunt down and shut. But just because a site lays out an opinion that a regime doesn't necessarily agree with is not going to be a reason that such a site isn't searchable on that country's specific server.
In the last year as well as China censoring material available online, the Iranian authorities have tried to prevent news from within their borders getting out via new media, and other regimes have also tried to supress the inflow or outpouring of cyber messages to or from their citizens. Google are saying "we are the world" we now have a way of getting information that should know no boundaries, be free for all to hear