The great wall of Google

So, we hear the news that Google ‘really has’ ceased censorship in China. At least, that is the meme currently working its way around the internet. Actually, this is rather disingenuous, and shows a particularly unsavoury side of how the Google PR machine really works.

If you’ve been living on Mars or want some background, here are a couple of links on the story.

Of course, a careful read of these articles shows that Google have done nothing more than redirect their front page to their existing Hong Kong search page, and that the censorship (which operates automatically between the mainland of China and…well…everywhere else) is still very much in place.

Users inside China have no greater freedom now, and this is a very different situation than if Google had really put its money where its (big) mouth is and uncensored its .cn site search results. Clearly they wouldn’t do that though, as not only would it be illegal in China, it very likely would have caused them to have to pull out of the lucrative market they so badly want a piece of – instead of getting a bit of bluster from the Chinese government and maybe a slap on the wrist.

Do a search for, say, ‘Tiananmen Square’ from inside China, and as the Guardian article points out, the internet connection will reset. Lest we forget, this is part of what Google is complicit in covering up. The Chinese government have been almost entirely successful in expunging this monstrous event from the consciousness of those living in their country, and Google (and others) have not only not done anything to stop this, they have actively aided them in their attempts at revisionist history.

This is a security blog, so I’ll get to the point that everyone seems to be missing. This whole story erupted because, allegedly, Google suffered attacks on its Gmail network from inside of China. Let’s leave aside for the moment, the whole “buzz” fiasco which probably did Google far more harm, but this is the rather grubby truth that Google is managing to cover up so well with its big talk about not “being evil” and opening up the freedom of the internet (which they so eagerly avoided doing for so long in order to get their hands on those lovely Chinese RMB).

The point is, that rather than look at what they were doing that was wrong and securing their network; or finding out what led to the compromises against their network, Google instead simply threw their toys out of the crib and made up a new story about solidarity and freedom and so on. Do you trust Gmail more now that they’ve engaged the NSA to help them secure it? I didn’t think so.

It’s a shame that so many tech bloggers have focused on the smokescreen political issues and ignored slamming Google for the real issues, that its approach to the privacy and security of its users is time and time again a huge disaster. The real problem is that they’ve got the money and the PR machine to cover it up with a different story, and swamp all those dissenting voices to avoid having to have that brief moment of introspection that might acutally change things for the better…rather like a certain government, don’t you think?

Andrew Lee

1 thought on “The great wall of Google

  1. Benjamin

    To be fair, I think Google did investigate the security breaches, and isolated the source to two mainland Chinese educational institutions. However, China is Leninist, and nationalist, and there is no way Google was going to get anywhere with these investigations into hacking emanating from China – and there is little doubt in my mind that the Party was involved at some level.

    It seems to me that China not only wants companies to comply with its totalitarian censorship laws, but put up with everything else too – the dirty tricks, the lack of fair competition, the sham of its legal system (a total disgrace), the disrespect for intellectual property – it’s a sorry tale, and numerous western companies have fallen foul of all this. It’s about more than censorship per se, its about how the entire totalitarian and corrupt society operates.

    The situation regarding censorship has got worse over recent years, and no doubt hacking and dirty tricks have too. The redirect to Google’s HK site seems fair enough – I think they are trying keep at least some business, and any search for Tiananmen will be flagged with an error message, making it clear that it is Chinese govt censorship that is operating now, not Google’s.

    Google now joins a string of Western companies that have so far failed in China (although Google keeps some operations going, for now). Success in China is about much more than complying to its “laws” (some of which are observed, some not), but adapting to its opaque and corrupt business culture and political system.

    Benjamin (Hong Kong)


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