Google’s About Turn in China

My latest BBC column looks at what Google is up to in China – read it on the BBC News website as usual.

Google has responded to what it terms “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure” aimed at getting access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists by announcing its desire to stop censoring search results on its website.

Writing on the official Google blog the company’s chief legal officer David Drummon says that “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”.

But there is clearly little expectation that this will be possible and Google has apparently decided that it will, if necessary, stop operating in China.

Read the whole thing.

However the story has moved fast – I said ‘

Here in the UK, Peter Barron, former editor of BBC Newsnight and now Google UK’s head of communications, has been all over the media giving their side of the story.

I haven’t seen any response from Chinese government spokespeople, and doubt one will be forthcoming.

Google may be big news in the west, but the decision of one search engine provider to renege on its agreement to follow local laws and ask for an exemption is unlikely to merit a formal response.

But I reckoned without the intervention of the US Administration in the row, which is turning it into a diplomatic incident. Perhaps there was more behind the decision than first seemed to be the case… this one might have legs.