US lawmakers criticize Yahoo officials, November 6, 2007
WASHINGTON --Yahoo Inc.'s chief executive and top lawyer on Tuesday defended their company's involvement in the jailing of a Chinese journalist. Irate lawmakers accused them of collaborating with an oppressive communist regime.
"While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said angrily after hearing from the two men.
Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahan offered apologies and promises to do better but no specific commitments. Lawmakers insisted that Yahoo along with other companies must use its market strength to change China, not just comply with the government's demands in order to gain access to tens of millions of Internet users.
"I deeply regret the consequences of what the Chinese government has done to the dissidents. My heart goes out to the families," said Yang.
"We have to do a whole lot better and improve in the future," he said. "I don't think anyone was trying to do anything wrong."
Journalist Shi Tao was sent to jail for 10 years for engaging in pro-democracy efforts deemed subversive after Yahoo turned over information about his online activities requested by the Chinese authorities in 2004.
Lantos indignantly urged Yang and Callahan to apologize to Shi's mother, who was sitting directly behind them.
Yang and Callahan turned around from the witness table and bowed from their seats to the woman, Gao Qinsheng, who bowed in return and then began to weep.
After the hearing, the Yahoo officials met with Gao Qinsheng for the first time to hear her concerns.
Callahan was summoned before the committee to explain testimony he gave Congress last year. He said then that Yahoo had no information about the nature of China's investigation when the company handed over information that ended up being used to convict Shi.
Callahan subsequently has acknowledged that Yahoo officials had received a subpoena-like document that made reference to suspected "illegal provision of state secrets" -- a common charge against political dissidents.
He reiterated Tuesday that he regretted his failure to inform the committee of this new information once he learned of it months after his congressional testimony.
But Callahan continued to insist that Yahoo did not know the real nature of the Chinese investigation because the order was not specific.
"I cannot ask our local employees to resist lawful demands and put their own freedom at risk, even if, in my personal view, the local laws are overbroad," Callahan said.
Lantos interrupted him.
"Why do you insist on repeating the phrase 'lawful orders'? These were demands by a police state," Lantos said.
"It's my understanding that under Chinese law these are lawful," Callahan responded after some hesitation.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., compared Yahoo's cooperation with the Chinese government to companies that cooperated with Nazi Germany during World War II.
Lawmakers demanded to know what Yahoo would do to help Shi's family and reacted with derision when there was no concrete answer.
No one on the committee came to the company's defense.
Yang and Callahan declined to outright endorse legislation approved by the committee that would prohibit U.S. Internet businesses from providing user information to Internet-restricting countries.
Lawmakers couldn't get the pair to commit to settling a lawsuit filed in California earlier this year on behalf of Shi and another journalist jailed after Yahoo provided information to China.
Callahan also couldn't say whether there were outstanding demands for information from the Chinese government to Yahoo, or how Yahoo would react today for an information demand from Beijing.
In 2005 Yahoo bought a 40 percent stake in China's biggest online commerce firm, Alibaba.com, which has taken over running Yahoo's mainland China operations. So Callahan said Yahoo no longer controls its operations in China.
Smith dismissed that as "plausible deniability."
Callahan did say that in going into future markets such as Vietnam, "I would hope to have a structure in place ... that we would be able to resist those demands."
On the Net:
House Foreign Affairs Committee: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/
(Photo) By Erica Werner
Associated Press Writer / November 6, 2007
This undated file photo, released on Nov. 22, 2005 by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows Shi Tao, a freelance journalist for Internet publications and an editor for the Chinese business newspaper Dangdai Shang Bao. A House committee chairman Monday Nov. 5, 2007 angrily rejected Yahoo Inc.'s explanation for why it provided incomplete information to Congress about its role in the arrest of a Chinese journalist. "Yahoo claims that this is just one big misunderstanding. Let me be clear _ this was no misunderstanding," said Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif. "This was inexcusably negligent behavior at best, and deliberately deceptive behavior at worst." (AP Photo/Committee to Protect Journalists, File)
From: Jonathan A. Melle, Manchester, New Hampshire
Date: June 27, 2005
To: President Bush and Hiawatha Bray
Re: My open letter to President George W. Bush (via U.S. Mail to The White House) and Hiawatha Bray (via E-mail)
Dear Honorable President Bush and Hiawatha Bray:
I have spent the past week with the news article, enclosed below, “Tech firms help tyrants keep their grip.” I was both saddened and amused by the sorry state of affairs in the paper tiger nation of China. The fear that China spreads among its oppressed inhabitants parallels the fear the American news media spreads against China.
Is not China always given most favored nation trading status? Is not China where a great majority of our goods are manufactured? Is not China, along with Japan, the financers of half of our nation’s $8.1 Trillion debt? Is not China now an integral part of our nation’s economic and financial present and future? The answer is “yes” to all of these questions.
I watch to World News every single night. If I have to work at my below living wage job with no benefits during the broadcast, I tape the news and watch it later that night. I read the newspapers everyday. I read magazines weekly. I stay on top of the news. YET, I FEEL BRAINWASHED, too. I do not believe I, as an American Citizen, am given reality or the truth for the news.
Why would I write this? My answer is simple. Economics. Most Americans are not being given a fair and equitable piece of the economic pie. When people, American citizens such as myself, raise this issue, we, or I, are called “SOCIALISTS.” I am not given to labels. However, I do believe that if the news reported reality and the truth then the American people would demand a middle class lifestyle. We would have universal healthcare. We would have intelligent, nourished children who all have a future. We would NOT have had former-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “FASCIST” leadership where a culture of fear flourished after the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001.
The constant and steady decline of the American Middle Class since the Carter Administration scares the “shit” (profanity) out of me. Why is this happening? The answer is simple, but largely unreported: The elite corporations have 99.9% of political power in Washington, D.C., and a majority of control in state and local governments. These corporate power brokers do not care about the health and welfare of the average American citizen! These corporate power brokers only care about making money in a FALSE REALITY or environment of “political stability.” That term is a corporate double-speak term for “CENSORSHIP.” Whenever a high profile beltway politician or a corporate power broker talks about “stability” he or she really means “CENSORSHIP.”
What is more about the following news article, below, is that I would rather be stabbed in the front and know my attacker than stabbed in the back and not know who did it. Of course, I would rather not be a victim of violence. What China is doing seems to be more honest than what American power brokers are doing with our American news media. In America, our news media is almost all corporate owned. What is more is that the ownership of this news media is being consolidated into about 6 major news media outlets. One of these news media corporate owners is the General Electric Company.
While I am impressed with America’s largest corporation, GE, I am dismayed at their politics. GE owns NBC and many other corporate subsidiaries. I grew up in beautiful Pittsfield, Massachusetts. My native hometown once had GE employ 3 out of 4 of her workforce. The heyday of Pittsfield had a very high median income and great public schools and services. Today, Pittsfield has one of the lower median incomes for cities and towns in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. When I was a public administration student at U Mass Amherst, I had access to all of the statistics on every community throughout Massachusetts. I had to do complex statistical reports on the economic causalities of the state’s public policies for cities and towns. Only North Adams had a lower median income and a higher per capita welfare caseload than Pittsfield in the Berkshire region. This is the reality of Pittsfield today after GE left Pittsfield for greener pastures.
Like Microsoft, GE is into being a power broker. It is one of the top-5 paid corporate contractors in Iraq. GE produces the news, but also causes economic hardship for communities, especially in the northeast. It is a known fact that GE’s use of PCBs, especially in high concentrations, has caused cancer in residents of communities where people lived and worked. I remember Saturday Night Live did a skit, in the form of a cartoon, where it was stated that GE causes cancer by its pollution of high concentration of PCBs and then the screen, in the form of a cartoon, went blank with bars and a beeping sound - - CENSORSHIP. My mom, who grew up in Pittsfield in the 1950s (Pittsfield’s heyday), is a cancer survivor. One of my mother’s childhood friends is a cancer survivor. One of my late neighbors in Pittsfield was a cancer victim who stayed alive long enough to see her daughter, who moved to Boston, get married. She then passed away the very next day. How many people who grew up in Pittsfield in the 1950s had cancer caused by GE’s pollution of high concentrations of PCBs? We will never know because GE is a power broker and won’t report the truth about this subject because of CENSORSHIP. BUT, I do know that my mother is one among this statistical group of Cancer Survivors and possibly a victim if it ever relapses.
President Bush, if I was in your shoes, I would not wait another minute and shut down Microsoft in the name of national security. Microsoft is violating our national security by brainwashing Chinese citizens. If there is ever “political instability” or “regional conflict” in the Asian region of the World and the USA has to fight China, we will be up against a brainwashed population that will see our men and women in Uniform as a threat and enemy. The most powerful form of war is mind control. Microsoft needs to be shut down immediately. You must act now to bring Bill Gates to justice and shut down this EVIL company!
We are a long way away from true political reforms for a fairer, more equitable and just democratic state in our own great nation. China is light years away from this kind of reform. We don’t have time to play economic games against a militarized, growing threat to the United States of America. This paper tiger that is China may become solid and galvanized. I dissent against not only our own news media’s control of information via wealthy and elite corporations, but also against our corporations helping China to brainwash her 1.3 billion inhabitants.
President Bush, please write me back about this important matter. I share in your causes for freedom, democracy and justice in our nation and world. I am interested in your response, agreements and disagreements.
GOD BLESS AMERICA!
My very best regards,
Jonathan A. Melle
The Boston Globe
June 20, 2005
"Tech firms help tyrants keep their grip"
By Hiawatha Bray
Microsoft Corporation is helping the government of CHINA in its efforts to BRAINWASH the country’s 1.3 billion inhabitants. It is a tough job - - so tough even Microsoft cannot pull it off. But it is willing to give it a try, along with such firms as Yahoo and Google.
It is about MONEY, of course. China already has 94 million Internet users, the world’s second-biggest online population after the United States, and there are still over a billion people yet to be hooked up. No way can Internet companies ignore a market like that.
On the downside, China is a THUG STATE that forces women to abort their children, imprisons journalists for publishing the truth, and TORTURES religious believers for praying. It is hardly surprising that the country’s leaders regard as PROFANITY such words as “democracy” and “human rights.” But it seems that Microsoft and China’s oligarchs speak the same language.
Rebecca MacKinnon, a fluent Chinese speaker who spent nearly a decade covering China for CNN, is now a research fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Berkman last week visited the Chinese version of Microsoft MSN Internet service, and tried to set up a Web log entitled “I love freedom of speech, human rights and democracy.”
Instead she got back an error message: “You must enter a title for your space. The title must not contain prohibited language, such as profanity.”
There is nothing new about US Internet companies acting as censors on China’s behalf. Yahoo does it, too, and so does Google. But these companies haven taken a less aggressive approach. Yahoo, for instance, waits until Chinese authorities complain about a user’s website, and then takes steps to shut it down.
GOOGLE CENSORS its Google News feature to block out Web news sources that are banned by the Chinese government, like the Voice of America. But spokeswoman Debbie Frost said it is done mainly because China’s Internet services are already programmed to block these sites. It used to be that the front page of the Google News Chinese edition would slow to a crawl while trying to display a headline from a banned site. Frost said that Google just gave up and dropped all such links from the Chinese news page.
THE MICROSOFT POLICY has ticked off Web libertarians who barely shrugged at Google’s and Yahoo’s policies. That is because Microsoft seems to have programmed its own computers to enforce China’s BARBAROUS CENSORSHIP policies. The government needn’t even complain about subversive content; Microsoft will ensure that it never appears.
Ask Microsoft about it, and they issue a canned response. “MSN abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which it operates,” the statement said.
Microsoft employee and well-known blogger Robert Scoble goes a little further in defending his bosses.
“It is not my place to make their laws,” Scoble writes on his blog. “It certainly in not my right to force their hand with business power. Any more than it is their place to make American laws.”
Rubbish, MacKinnon replies.
“By not agreeing to comply with filtering requirements, you are not forcing the Chinese to do anything,” she said. “You’re just not playing along with their game.”
Indeed, MacKinnon said that Microsoft and other Internet companies should flatly refuse to comply with the Chinese government’s filtering standards, and not only out of a love of free speech.
“We’re getting into a national security issue,” she fretted. MacKinnon fears that our support of Chinese censorship is storing up trouble for the United States in years to come, in the same way that our tolerance of Saudi fanaticism is now paying such ugly dividends.
Consider the case of Taiwan. Most Chinese support their country’s bellicose attitude toward their “rebellious province.” But MacKinnon thinks this is largely because the Chinese get so little accurate information about Taiwan, through the Internet or any other media. “If you did have a free exchange of opinion,” she said, “maybe more people on the mainland might say, you know, let’s let those Taiwanese do what they want.”
Instead, Taiwan is demonized, and the masses cheer their leaders’ belligerent posturing. All in all, it is a good way to start a war. And US Internet companies would share some of the blame, in MacKinnon’s view, for helping Beijing keep its citizens in the dark.
“This comes down as their larger responsibility as Americans,” MacKinnon said.
Against this noble sentiment, the pallid justifications of Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo seem pretty limp. They will only say that they obey the laws of the countries where they do business. What goes unsaid is that they must also answer to the laws of economics, and to shareholders who will be mightily displeased if the companies abandon the world’s most populous country.
But something else has gone unsaid as well. The leaders of Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google know that China’s effort to seal off its populace from reality is doomed to failure. Sure, Yahoo’s China-based service is censored, but there are plenty of other Chinese-language sites stuffed full of SUBVERSION, and there is no way the BULLIES in Beijing can stifle them all. To continue its economic rise, China needs tens of millions of highly educated people. Such people don’t need unfettered Internet access to realize their government is lying to them. The backlash is bound to come, sooner or later. And the American Internet companies will be well-established on the inside of the Chinese firewall, ready to open the floodgates of free information, as soon as the Chinese people demand it.
The Microsoft engineer who programmed their self-censoring blog system probably felt like taking a long, hot shower once the work was done. But he probably sang in the shower, and laughed at the STUPIDITY of TYRANTS.
"Web site tracks world online censorship reports"
By JEANNIE NUSS, Associated Press Writer, Tuesday, August 4, 2009
BOSTON - When Shanghai blogger Isaac Mao tried to watch a YouTube clip of Chinese police beating Tibetans, all he got was an error message.
Mao thought the error — just after the one-year anniversary of a crackdown on Tibetan protesters in China — was too suspicious to be coincidental, so he reported it on a new Harvard-based Web site that tracks online censorship.
Meanwhile, more than 100 other people in China did the same thing. The spike in reports on Herdict.org in March pointed to government interference rather than a run-of-the-mill technical glitch, even before Google Inc. confirmed China was blocking its YouTube video-sharing site.
"We saw reports coming in as soon as the blocks were happening and certainly before any of the media were reporting it," Herdict founder Jonathan Zittrain said of the months-long YouTube blackout that coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in June and recent ethnic riots in the Xinjiang province.
Herdict users report their Web site problems anonymously — numeric Internet addresses are recorded but only general location is displayed — so people can post more freely, encouraging reports about sensitive topics like HIV and AIDS-related sites, and from people in countries with possible government repercussions.
The site doesn't investigate reports, though, so there's no way to know for sure that an outage is related to government meddling rather than a cut cable or other problem unrelated to censorship. Although surges in reports do suggest a government role, a widespread technical glitch can also produce a similar spike.
Web site inaccessibility can also result from network or server errors, firewalls at schools or offices or a new phenomenon called reverse filtering, in which companies block access to copyright-protected material outside a specific country.
Zittrain, law professor and co-founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said Herdict does not aim to present a flawless picture of online filtering, but to let patterns of accessibility speak for themselves.
"The goal ... is to gather the kind of raw data from which people can then start to gain insight and come to conclusions," he said. "With enough people asking, you start to get a sense of where there are blockages in the network."
Herdict — short for "verdict of the herd" — has spread beyond techie circles to garner users in more than 140 countries, including censorship hotbeds China and Iran.
"Herdict has been buzzed (about) for months in China and now it's becoming more popular since ... Google.com was blocked for hours and Twitter.com was blocked twice recently," Mao said in an e-mail.
In Iran, Herdict users have logged unsuccessful attempts to access Twitter and other social-networking sites that have been blocked since the country's controversial June 12 presidential election.
Herdict users like that the site fosters a sense of community among those who can't fully navigate the Web and provides them with hope for a freer Internet.
"It gives people a sense how many people share the same blackout regionally or globally," Mao said. "You are not alone."
Before, someone might complain about a block via a single Facebook or Twitter update, but that information often doesn't go beyond a small group of friends.
Zittrain started Herdict in February — a month before China's block began — to aggregate reports of online inaccessibility and help users detect government censorship on the Web as soon as it happens. Having tracked online censorship since the early 2000s, he wanted to put Web accessibility at the fingertips of those who use it most, rather than a handful of experts.
"The less 'online' class of people generally don't worry about it, until they run into something blocked like the BBC," said Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Boston-based circumvention tool, The Tor Project Inc. "Then they say, 'Hey, what is this? All I want to do is read this one article.'"
The site has versions in Arabic and Chinese, and an interactive map with a roaming orange sheep to mark inaccessible Web sites.
Don't expect censorship to go away, though. At most, Herdict can help give people a better sense of the prevalence of censorship.
"I don't think that a specific monitoring tool will specifically have censorship go away, but we'll just know about it better," said Robert Guerra, project director for the Internet Freedom Program at the Washington-based Freedom House. "It's far more pervasive than people think."
On the Net: www.herdict.org
China has gone to new lengths to control activity by its huge population of Internet users, like these in Beijing on Saturday (9/5/2009).
"China Web Sites Seeking Users’ Names"
By JONATHAN ANSFIELD, The New York Times (Online), September 6, 2009
BEIJING — News Web sites in China, complying with secret government orders, are requiring that new users log on under their true identities to post comments, a shift in policy that the country’s Internet users and media have fiercely opposed in the past.
Until recently, users could weigh in on news items on many of the affected sites more anonymously, often without registering at all, though the sites were obligated to screen all posts, and the posts could still be traced via Internet protocol addresses.
But in early August, without notification of a change, news portals like Sina, Netease, Sohu and scores of other sites began asking unregistered users to sign in under their real names and identification numbers, said top editors at two of the major portals affected. A Sina staff member also confirmed the change.
The editors said the sites were putting into effect a confidential directive issued in late July by the State Council Information Office, one of the main government bodies responsible for supervising the Internet in China.
The new step is not foolproof, the editors acknowledged. It was possible for a reporter to register successfully on several major sites under falsified names and ID and cellphone numbers.
But the requirement adds a critical new layer of surveillance to mainstream sites in China, which were already heavily policed. Further regulations of the same nature also appeared to be in the pipeline.
And while the authorities called the measure part of a drive to forge greater “social responsibility” and “civility” among users, they moved forward surreptitiously and suppressed reports about it, said the editors and others in the media industry familiar with the measure, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid putting their jobs at risk.
Asked why the policy was pushed through unannounced, the chief editor of one site said, “The influence of public opinion on the Net is still too big.”
Government Internet regulators have been trying to usher in real-name registration controls since 2003, when they ordered Internet cafes around China to demand that customers show identification, nominally to keep out minors. Last year, lawmakers and regulators began discussing legislation on a more extensive “real name system,” as it is known.
But such proposals have aroused heated debate over the purview of the state to restrict China’s online community, which is the largest in the world at about 340 million people and growing.
Proponents, led by officials and state-connected academics in the information security field, argue that mandatory controls are necessary to help subdue inflammatory attacks, misinformation and other illegal activity deemed to endanger social order. They often note registration requirements on large sites in South Korea to support their point.
Critics counter that government regulation represents an incursion on free speech, individual privacy and the watchdog role of the Web in China.
The critics say sites and users should retain the right to discipline themselves. Given the country’s huge population of Internet users and its failure to guarantee freedom of expression, they argue, the case of China is hardly analogous to that of South Korea.
In 2006, Internet users and the news media rebuffed one official proposal to require real-name registration on blog hosting sites. Star bloggers denounced the notion, while ordinary users overwhelmingly rejected it in surveys conducted on sites like Sina.
In another key test of the policy earlier this year, the legislature in Hangzhou, near Shanghai, passed a regulation that would have placed the requirement on users who comment, blog or play games on sites based there. Amid a popular outcry, however, the city shied away from enforcing the regulation.
Central authorities have gone to new lengths to tame online activity in 2009, a year peppered with politically delicate anniversaries.
Government censors have closed thousands of sites in a continuing war on “vulgarity,” closed liberal forums and blogs for spreading “harmful information,” blocked access to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and cut off Internet service where serious unrest has erupted, notably in the Xinjiang region of the west after deadly clashes between ethnic Uighurs and Han in July. Increasingly, officials have defended the Web shutdowns on the grounds of national security.
The government recently set off an international furor when it ordered that all computers sold in China come prepackaged with pornography filtering software that authorities could remotely control. Officials were forced to retreat from the order after international companies and trade bodies protested and Chinese hackers showed that the software was designed to block politically offensive content as well.
The authorities had aimed to avoid a similar showdown over the new real-name requirement. “We had no recourse to challenge it,” said the news editor of another portal.
Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong-based newspaper loyal to Beijing, first leaked news of the State Council edict in late July. But the report was scrubbed from the paper’s Web site within a few days.
Another state newspaper tried to follow up on the Ta Kung Pao report soon thereafter, the paper’s editors said, but they were forced to abort their article because they were warned that the order was a state secret.
The State Council Information Office had yet to respond to a list of submitted questions about the move.
The new mandate did not appear to affect formerly registered users of the portals. Nor did it affect blog hosts, forums or government news sites like People’s Daily or Xinhua.
Whether because it had an impact mainly on rookie users or because of the void of news about it, bloggers in China were unusually slow to recognize the measure. But those who did were critical.
One commentator on the popular forum Tianya wrote, “Not daring to write one’s real name, in truth, is a form of self-protection for the weak.”
There were signals in the state media in recent weeks that more name registration measures would follow.
An influential advocate of the policy, Fang Bingxing, the president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, told a forum in August that the “time was ripe” to roll it out widely to bolster information security, newspapers reported.
A trail of comments on Sina thrashed the report.
Late last month, the Communist Party-run Guangming Daily ran a positive story about a city government portal in western China that imposed the requirement on new bloggers, calling it a “forerunner.”
Hu Yong, a new media specialist at Peking University, said government-enforced registration requirements carried long-term side effects.
“Netizens will have less trust in the government, and to a certain extent, the development of the industry will be impeded,” he said.
From a comparison of the most commented-on articles in July and August on a number of portals it was hard to determine whether the volume of posts had been affected so far.
But both editors at two of the major portals affected said their sites had shown marked drop-offs.
Visitors stand at the reception of the Google China headquarters in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010. Google Inc. will stop censoring its search results in China and may pull out of the country completely after discovering that computer hackers had tricked human rights activists into opening their e-mail accounts to outsiders. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
"Google to end China censorship after e-mail breach"
By Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer, January 12, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc. will stop censoring its search results in China and may pull out of the country completely after discovering that computer hackers had tricked human-rights activists into exposing their e-mail accounts to outsiders.
The change of heart announced Tuesday heralds a major shift for the Internet's search leader, which has repeatedly said it will obey Chinese laws requiring some politically and socially sensitive issues to be blocked from search results available in other countries. The acquiescence had outraged free-speech advocates and even some shareholders, who argued Google's cooperation with China violated the company's "don't be evil" motto.
The criticism had started to sway Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who openly expressed his misgivings about the company's presence in China.
But the tipping point didn't come until Google recently uncovered hacking attacks launched from within China. The apparent goal: gathering personal information about dozens of human rights activists trying to shine a light on the country's censorship and other secretive policies.
Google officials said they plan to talk to the Chinese government to determine if there is a way the company can still provide unfiltered search results in the country. If an agreement can't be worked out, Google is prepared to leave China four years after creating a search engine bearing China's Web suffix, ".cn" to put itself in a better position to profit from the world's most populous country.
"The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences," David Drummond, Google's top lawyer, wrote in a Tuesday blog posting.
A spokesman for the Chinese consulate in San Francisco had no immediate comment.
Abandoning China wouldn't put a big dent in Google's earnings, although it could crimp the company's growth as the country's Internet usage continues to rise. Google, based in Mountain View, said its Chinese operations account for an "immaterial" amount of its roughly $22 billion in annual revenue.
Although Google's search engine is the most popular worldwide, it's a distant second in China, where the homegrown Baidu.com processes more than 60 percent of all requests.
Free-speech and human rights groups are hoping Google's about-face will spur more companies to take a similar stand.
"Google has taken a bold and difficult step for Internet freedom in support of fundamental human rights," said Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a civil-liberties group in Washington. "No company should be forced to operate under government threat to its core values or to the rights and safety of its users."
It's "an incredibly significant move," said Danny O'Brien, international outreach coordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet rights group in San Francisco. "This changes the game because the question won't be 'How can we work in China?' but 'How can we create services that Chinese people can use, from outside of China?'"
Google's new stance on China was triggered by a sophisticated computer attack orchestrated from within the country. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., praised Google for disclosing chicanery that "raises serious national security concerns."
Without providing details, Google said it and at least 20 other major companies from the Internet, financial services, technology, media and chemical industries were targeted. The heist lifted some of Google's intellectual property but didn't get any information about the users of its services, the company said. Google has passed along what it knows so far to U.S. authorities and other affected companies.
The assault on Google appeared primarily aimed at breaking into the company's e-mail system, "Gmail," in an attempt to pry into the accounts of human right activists protesting the Chinese government's policies.
Only two e-mail accounts were infiltrated in these attacks, Google said, and the intruders were only able to see subject lines and the dates that the individual accounts were created. None of the content written within the body of the e-mails leaked out, Google said.
As part of its investigation into that incident, Google stumbled onto another scam that was more successful. Google said dozens of activists fighting the Chinese government's policies fell prey to ruses commonly known as "phishing" or malware. The victims live in the United States, Europe and China, Google said.
Phishing involves malicious e-mails urging the recipients to open an attachment or visit a link that they're conned into believing comes from a friend or legitimate company. Clicking on a phishing link of installs malware -- malicious software -- on to computers.
Once it's installed on a computer, malware can be used as a surveillance tool that can obtain passwords and unlock e-mail accounts.
Google's unfettered search results won't necessarily ensure more information will be made available to the average person in China because the government could still use its own filtering tools, said Clothilde Le Coz, Washington director for Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog group.
"The Chinese government is one of the most efficient in terms of censoring the Web," she said.
AP Technology Writers Barbara Ortutay in New York, Jessica Mintz in Seattle and Jordan Robertson in San Francisco contributed to this report.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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