updated 04:25 pm EDT, Mon March 22, 2010
Google acts on censorship talk
Google today acted on its threat to stop censoring China and at least temporarily took down the official Google China search page. Visiting google.cn now steers visitors to the Hong Kong page, which isn't blocked by China's government-run filters and will show results for Tiananmen Square protests and other normally censored results. It now also shows results in simplified Chinese to help mainland readers in addition to the traditional used in Hong Kong.
The method is potentially blockable by the Chinese government but for now lets those in the communist-controlled areas see information that would otherwise be blocked. Google added that it now has a tracking site that will show which services are being blocked.
Officials at the search engine noted that their strategy is legal under Chinese law and that it comes after unsuccessful talks with China, which has repeatedly said that censorship is mandatory. The incident began in January after Google detected hacking attempts and spying against human rights activists using services like Gmail that were in turn blamed on the government. China's leaders have long denied the accusations and gone so far as to say that Google itself is subverting the China on behalf of the US, although the eventual source of the hacks was traced to a university known to be a recruiting source for China's IT efforts.
The move doesn't represent a full pullout as research and sales will remain in China but could have a ripple effect on the technology industry in the country. Android should continue in China as the government is depending heavily on it for its Open Mobile system devices at China Mobile, but it could also affect devices that rely heavily on Google search; both Android and iPhone rely primarily on these for key apps.
Government representatives have yet to comment on the action.