Google's change of heart

Posted on Wed 13 January 2010 in geek

So Google are finally having second thoughts about their relationship with China. We may see then end of google.cn as a search engine that filters search results that might embarrass the authorities.

Google got a lot of stick at the time when they first created their Chinese presence. In reality they were doing what every other western Internet company had to do to get access to the massive growing market that is China. I suspect the reason they got more stick than most is because it was one of the early tests of their (in)famous "Don't be Evil" motto, a statement of purity that is never going to be easy to live up to while operating a profitable business.

Now that Google seem to be resigned to not being able to operate inside Chinese law I wonder if they would be willing to go the next step. There may be many arguments for censorship but secret censorship is very hard to defend. If you don't know what you aren't allowed to see how can you be sure of the motives of the powers that be that create that list. What I would love Google to do is share that list of censored results so we know exactly what it is the Chinese authorities don't like. For bonus points Google could rank the list in order of search popularity so we know what is the most requested censored pages are.

I suspect this won't happen as Google, despite their new approach, will want to maintain as cordial relationship with the government of the largest growing market in the world. While google.com does periodically drop off the radar in China every now and again (as it does not filter results) the temptation must surely be to ensure it has at least some visibility rather than none at all.

EDIT TO ADD: More information about hacks used and speculation about why. I'm just glad I don't use Adobe Reader...