ongoing game of cat and mouse between China and Google continued today as the Internet search behemoth announced it is making some changes in an attempt to please the Chinese government. The dust up began in January of this year when Google refused to censor any results on Google.cn after accusing China of orchestrating a cyber attack on its servers. Threatened with losing its license to serve content, Google eventually decided to redirect users to its Honk Kong homepage - a work-around which until today had gone unchecked by the Chinese government.The
With the first half of the year coming to a close, Google's Internet Content Provider (ICP) license in China is up for renewal, and government officials have made it clear that the automatic redirection to Google Hong Kong is no longer acceptable. Google's solution? Instead of redirecting users directly from Google.cn to Google.com.hk, the Chinese homepage will now simply link to its Hong Kong counterpart, which allows users to search free of censorship.
And by "link" Google really means "if you click anywhere on the site you will taken to Google Hong Kong," because that's precisely what the landing page does. At least that's how it behaves when I visit it from the U.S., but perhaps it gives users a choice when visiting from within China. Google believes this will appease the Chinese officials, and will secure the renewal of its ICP license.
"As a company we aspire to make information available to users everywhere, including China. It's why we have worked so hard to keep Google.cn alive, as well as to continue our research and development work in China," said David Drummond, SVP of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer for Google in a blog post late Tuesday evening. "This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self censor and, we believe, with local law. We are therefore hopeful that our license will be renewed on this basis so we can continue to offer our Chinese users services via Google.cn."
While this may technically be in line with Chinese law by not automatically redirecting users to Google Hong Kong, the government officials may not be pleased with linking to the Hong Kong site. If the site does in fact give Chinese users an option to use one or the other, it may be hard to fault them from simply linking to the other site. We should find out more soon since Google's license is up for renewal on June 30th, but it would seem that for the time being, the ball is now in China's court.