The search engine giant announced today in a blog post that the Chinese government has renewed its Internet Content Provider (ICP) license and will stop redirecting traffic in China to the uncensored Google Hong Kong site. Instead it will send Chinese users to a new landing page that links to the Hong Kong site.
David Drummond, senior vice president and corporate development and chief legal officer for Google, said in the blog post "users can conduct web search or continue to use Google.cn services like music and text translate, which we can provide locally without filtering. This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page."
The move came in response to China indicating to Google that the redirect was "unacceptable" and that it could result in Google losing its ICP altogether, according to Google.
Google's official "re-entry" into China didn't come as much of a surprise, however. Google had kept its offices in China after the Hong Kong redirect and details of the hacks that exposed Google and more than 20 other companies in the Operation Aurora attack emerged. "Even through the whole Aurora fiasco, their offices in Beijing were operating as usual," says Chenxi Wang, principal analyst for security and risk management at Forrester Research. "Everyone knows that Google isn't going to abandon the China market forever. The question is how soon they'd get back into it and what concessions that they'd make to get back into the market."
It's unclear just what Google and the Chinese government agreed to in their negotiations. "What I heard is that there had been a series of closed-door negotiations between Google higher-ups and representatives of the Chinese government, though, of course, no one knows what they have negotiated," Chang says. "I would guess that Google needs to consent to some form of censorship filtering, and have no idea what gesture China would have to do to entice Google back in."
Google's Drummond, meanwhile, blogged that the goal was to make information available everywhere. "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. This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self censor and, we believe, with local law," he said in his post.
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