They’re experimenting with putting up a page that shows the number of requests they’ve received, and (partially) the action they took, for the most recent six months.
You can view their map and click the pushpins to see country-specific data. For China, it says
Chinese officials consider censorship demands to be state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time.
Isn’t it interesting that rather than saying “removal requests” Google used the word “censorship” in this case?
To read more about legitimate (legal) requests and requests that do not have the force of law behind them and may simply be trying to intimidate a web site owner, visit the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse.
The Open Net Initiative seeks to identify and document Internet filtering and surveillance.
So the “solution” to providing uncensored Chinese-language search, at least right now (beginning 22 March, 2010), is to have Chinese citizens use google.com.hk (hk==Hong Kong) rather than mainland-based google.cn. I guess it’s a breakthrough idea to do this, since under Hong Kong law, the uncensored search is legal, but of course the arguments going on these days about restrictive access to the Internet have to do with nations trying to restrict the access of their citizens based on physical location. And the location of a server is important because the local authorities can come in and physically shut you down.
But the great firewall is already blocking Google.com.hk content, as would be expected. (continue reading…)
I pulled together a page of references on the Google China issues, beginning with their 2006 announcement that they would begin providing filtered search results at google.cn and ending “today” with speculation about exactly what has been going on that caused them to announce they would stop filtering results and see whether they could reach an accommodation with the Chinese government about providing unfiltered results in China. The summary page is at The Social Graph of Malware, not here. Go read it. And I’ll try to keep it up to date.
Its clear that the decision to filter was tough. And it probably took less to get them to reverse the decision than if the original decision had been clear cut. The issues that I see are involved include these:
- Censorship – even if mandated by local laws;
- Censorship – on more universal grounds (such as censorship of hate speech, etc.);
- Increasing Chinese cyberaggression – hacking servers, looking for industrial secrets (supposed Chinese, because it’s almost impossible to really know);
- Aggressive attacks against minority communities and free speech advocates (cited by Google, but I’ve seen them personally);
- Drive-by malware insertions in free-speech web sites, and whether this is targeted or not;
- Whether an equivalent of the Geneva Protocol (which deals with weapons as opposed to prisoners) can be developed for cyberwarfare.
The Social Graph of Malware is a site I started a few months ago, and sporadically contribute to, that describes how social engineering contributes so much to the spread of malware. The Google incident that sparked their “reversal” decision to stop filtering (just a week ago) was largely a piece of social engineering. We have been seeing targeted attacks on the Tibetan exile community (and others) recently, utilizing social engineering tactics to get people to open poisoned files that then infect their computers. So I’ll continue to track the Google.cn issue on The Social Graph of Malware because of this connection.
In a post on the Official Google Blog a couple of hours ago, David Drummond, SVP Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, says that Google and other organizations have been the targets of attacks from China, and that Google may suspend operations within China.
He characterizes the attacks as “highly sophisticated” and “targeted” — though his description doesn’t really describe the sophistication — and it seems to be much like what we’re seeing in terms of attacks against the Tibetan exile community and Tibet support groups [TSGs] in general.
He specifically says the more than twenty attacks they identified, had as a primary goal:
“…accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.”
He cites a number of reports, including the GhostNet report, which you should read if you’d like a little more detailed analysis of how some of this stuff takes place.
And here’s the punchline:
“We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”
Whoa! He used the word censoring here! I don’t recall that Google described their actions as censorship when they first started filtering results at Google.cn…
This is a welcome step forward, assuming they follow through, and I applaud their willingness to listen to others who have been criticizing Google’s decision (to provide censored search results in China) from the beginning, as well as (now) to respond to the censorship and repression of free speech that we see spreading now.
See my related posts (below) for more on the issue of free speech and human rights in China and elsewhere in the world.