Print 28 comment(s) - last by Smilin.. on Mar 8 at 10:31 AM

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Microsoft has no plans to uncensor its search engine in China, even if Google does so. Microsoft currently owns less than 5 percent of the Chinese search market, while Google owns over 30 percent.  (Source: Business Week)

Google is reportedly in talks with China to potentially back away from its threat to stop censoring its search results. Google is angry about a recent data theft that was linked to a former Chinese government security consultant.  (Source: Technology News)
Talks between Google and the Chinese government quietly continue

Censorship is the name of the game in China's media market.  If you aren't willing to filter out content the government finds unacceptable, you aren't allowed to do business with the nation's over 1 billion people.  For most companies, that's too tempting a target to miss.  Blind compliance has been a typical precedent in the past.

However, Google, far and away the internet's largest search provider, is hardly your average company.  When Chinese hackers stole information from Google in mid-December, the search giant's simmering frustration boiled over and it announced on January 12 that it would begin uncensoring it Chinese search.  Currently the company complies with local laws and filters out banned topics like the forbidden Fulun Gong spiritual movement and Tibetan independence.

Now the company has cooled slightly and is in talks with the National People's Congress, China's parliament, in Beijing according to 
Reuters.  News of the talks was released by Li Yizhong, minister of China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Google is still quite unhappy with China.  The results of its investigation concluded that the attack in December originated from two Chinese schools and used malware written by a Chinese security consultant in his 30s, a man who reportedly had deep government links.  Google is also trying to reconcile the idea of continuing to obey China's censorship edict with its policy of internet freedom and equality.

China, meanwhile insists censorship is essential for maintaining a healthy society.  They point to current U.S. child pornography laws and pending legislation in the U.S. that would monitor citizens' online activities for copyright infringement as proof that it's not the only major nation with plans to filter objectionable traffic.  As to the claims that the Google attacks originated in China, a Chinese official called them "groundless."

It's important to bear in mind that Google is not the top search engine in China.  Google China, which launched in 2006, currently holds about 31.3 percent of the market, while Baidu, a Chinese search firm, owns a whopping 63.9 percent of the market.  A third company, Chinese firm, takes up much of the remaining share.

Google's U.S. rival Microsoft has been eager to get a piece of the Chinese search revenue pie that last quarter amounted to 2 billion yuan ($293M USD).  In June, it launched a beta version of the Chinese localized version of its search engine Bing complete with the required content filtering.

According to 
Reuters, Microsoft's at times boisterous CEO Steve Ballmer says that his company has no plans whatsoever to uncensor its search engine or pull out of China even if Google does so.  Zhang Yaqin, chairman of Microsoft's Asia-Pacific R&D Group states, "Regardless of whether or not Google stays, we will aggressively promote our search and cloud computing (in China). We hope to achieve a relatively important place in the China search market.  But we must be very patient, we still need a lot of time."

Microsoft is advancing with an ambitious design to increase 2010 investment in China that includes $150M USD in outsourced software projects and $500M USD in new search investment.  Aside from search, Microsoft is also hoping to gain ground in China's mobile market, in which Google also competes.  Microsoft recently unveiled its Windows Mobile 7 smart phone operating system, which will debut on select handsets later this year.

At the end of the day, despite moral objections, even Google may relent and accept the cost of doing business in China.  After all, the country has more wired users than any nation in the world with an estimated 350 million internet users.  Figures on cell phone usage vary wildly, but tend to place the total user base at over 700 million subscribers.  China also reportedly has close to 155 million smartphone users.

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Censorship is evil.
By Motoman on 3/5/2010 10:20:20 AM , Rating: 5
Google (and others) have 2 choices: do evil, or don't do evil.

Pick one.

RE: Censorship is evil.
By Smilin on 3/5/10, Rating: 0
RE: Censorship is evil.
By JasonMick on 3/5/2010 10:59:02 AM , Rating: 3
Indeed. Some people see the world in black and white in terms of morality. But in the end, it's mostly gray.

That's the real problem with the most passionate debates, be it health care, censorship, piracy, and global warming. There's such diverse arguments and on some level most of them share both some element of truth/validity and some dark sides as well.

The more I write and talk about issues, the more I realize that often both sides on these kinds of topics are in some ways right and at the same time equally wrong. There are no easy answers. And yet we have to choose.

RE: Censorship is evil.
By Flunk on 3/5/2010 12:41:25 PM , Rating: 4
"Don't be evil" is Google's motto. I think you guys just missed the joke.

RE: Censorship is evil.
By Smilin on 3/5/2010 12:57:35 PM , Rating: 2
Others don't have that motto so the "and others" kinda makes this N/A.

RE: Censorship is evil.
By KashGarinn on 3/8/2010 8:31:38 AM , Rating: 2
"Indeed. Some people see the world in black and white in terms of morality. But in the end, it's mostly gray."

- no it's mostly made up, that's why morality should never enter into a real debate on anything.

Want to debate healthcare without morality? ask questions regarding cost, life-expectancy, personal relevance, personal advantages, how many around you get affected and so on. There is no good or evil in the answers, the answers will be based on the self-serving code (will it help me, or hurt me) and peoples' decisions will be based on what timescale they are thinking, the what-ifs they're taking into consideration, and how much they are willing to help others by hurting themselves financially.

For the average republican who agrees with fox, to protect themselves from any tax fluctuations they'd rather see 50 million registered americans die, they'd rather see their friends and relatives go bankrupt when they lose their health, and they'd rather pay a lot more for a middle man to deny their coverage than talk to their doctors directly and get well, if they get ill.

Strange world.. people who want to hurt themselves financially to see others suffer..

This is why the american system is failing, companies (in this case insurance companies)are allowing themselves to hurt people for their own personal gain.

If anything points to corruption it's how the people of America have let this happen.

RE: Censorship is evil.
By superPC on 3/5/2010 4:22:42 PM , Rating: 2
even though it's in google motto, evil is relative. i think the patriot act is evil. monitoring isp to find proof that a small number of people are downloading illegal content is also evil (for the rest of us that don't download illegally). invasion of privacy in all walks of our life while we're surfing the net, traveling, even listening to music on our mobile media player device are also evil. yet google doesn't say anything about that. what we think as evil are not the same as what other think as evil, let alone what government think as evil.

RE: Censorship is evil.
By Penti on 3/7/2010 4:48:38 AM , Rating: 2
Who cares, everybody there uses Baidu any way. Most will not read english sites, can't or do not want to. And I doubt all the propaganda and information are available at Chinese language sites and is easy to discard as propaganda. They still won't be able to visit the site which google directs them too. After all the Communist party members kids don't turn into bourgeois freedom fighters when they study abroad. Those who care probably rome the internet freely on foreign language sites any way because it's not that hard to circumvent the filtering by using tunnels and proxy servers. Those fighting for rights in China has other worries. Though.

RE: Censorship is evil.
By clovell on 3/8/2010 9:53:37 AM , Rating: 2
Pulling out of China & further isolating it from the West will not somehow 'teach them good sense'. Censorship will continue even more unabated if Google pulls out.

Make no mistake, the 'evil' will exist - even persist - regardless of what Google/Microsoft/Yahoo/etc. does. In order for the Great Firewall to fall, Chinese culture must change.

To that end, we may as well make some money back from them and keep Google there with at least the concept of free information somewhere in their minds.

To hell with China...
By subverb on 3/5/2010 9:51:08 AM , Rating: 5
Screw China! They have forever gotten away with using their population to leverage companies into BS situations. It should not be the governments call what people should be allowed to look at or not look at, and banning companies from doing business there because they don't filter is horsecrap. The US needs to stop bending over to them and just recruit as many hackers as possible, send them to Europe, and have them attack China and see how the Chinese like being hacked. Then when China tries to say it was us, just tell them what they tell us "Those claims are groundless."

RE: To hell with China...
By Smilin on 3/5/10, Rating: -1
RE: To hell with China...
By subverb on 3/5/2010 11:40:39 AM , Rating: 2
Well I'm sorry, but I just think its bullshit how nothing is done regarding China attacking us and our companies. They need a taste of their own medicide to waken them up and pressure them to change their ways. It is borderline state-sponsored cyber-terrorism they engage in, one good attack on them is more then deserved and justified. Plus, their attacks originate from China and they still expect us to believe they had nothing to do with it. It would be absurd for China to point the finger at the US if they launched overseas given all the attacks launching from China recently.

RE: To hell with China...
By Smilin on 3/5/10, Rating: 0
RE: To hell with China...
By mcnabney on 3/5/2010 4:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
You doubt for an instant that the US military would not respond to a real cyber attack from China?
First, we would cut links to Asia. Scary idea, but if you filter traffic from China, India, Russia, old Soviet SSRs, and a few asian nations the amount of probing drops to almost zero.
Second, if the government/infrastructure was negatively impacted in a risky manner there would be aircraft carriers and forward air units sent to the theater immediately.
Third, if it still didn't stop things would escalate to real war in a hurry. FYI - you know how that would end, and would likely start.

RE: To hell with China...
By superPC on 3/5/10, Rating: -1
RE: To hell with China...
By superPC on 3/5/2010 5:13:46 PM , Rating: 1
sorry about saying china having a larger air force compared to US. they don't (i misread). but their air force are half the size of the US air force. and in an invasion, you don't bring all of your air power.

RE: To hell with China...
By Smilin on 3/8/2010 10:29:20 AM , Rating: 2
So what?

Who cares what we did in response? Lets say we deploy a covert army of magical elves that turn all chinese people into gummy bears.

The fact remains that our economy would be decimated.

Downrate me all you want. I'll stick to the facts: The US would lose a cyberwar by the simple fact that we have more to lose.

RE: To hell with China...
By Drag0nFire on 3/5/2010 2:15:04 PM , Rating: 2
Eh. Screw MS/Bing too while you're at it. Shameless profiteering while human rights are at stake.

RE: To hell with China...
By mcnabney on 3/5/2010 4:22:09 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, for Microsoft it is really more like professional courtesy. From one authoritarian organization to another.

RE: To hell with China...
By Smilin on 3/8/2010 10:31:36 AM , Rating: 2

Why don't you start spelling it Micro$oft so we can spot and avoid your nutbag circa-1996 anti MS rants.

Internet Censorship
By Blackbird1996 on 3/5/2010 1:55:37 PM , Rating: 2
The most important American values are Freedom and Liberty. Its a wonder why we do any business at all with the oppressive country's in the world. How many American soldiers have died fighting tyranny, oppression, fascism, and communism? If your an American firm, and believe in American values and individual human rights, then you would refuse to conduct business with those who don't support those values. These corporate companies are hypocrites. Google and Microsoft should get the hell out of China and let them develop their own technologies.

RE: Internet Censorship
By Solandri on 3/5/2010 5:18:51 PM , Rating: 3
Ok, so in the name of Liberty, you cut off all economic ties to totalitarian regimes. We did that with Cuba 50 years ago; where has it gotten us? Cuba is still totalitarian, the non-party people still live in poverty, with no signs of changing.

Now look at China. 40 years ago we opened up economic trade, with the floodgates opening 20 years ago. It has several free economic zones, mostly kept its hands off Hong Kong's economy and politics when the U.K. turned it over back to them. It has a growing middle class. Chinese business people frequently meet with and visit foreigners, meaning the government can't simply lie to the Chinese people about what the rest of the world is like (a la North Korea). And the Chinese citizens seem more and more willing to push the limits of the political restraints the government places upon them.

So which model seems to be working better? The way I see it, Freedom is like an addictive drug. Once people get a taste of it, they will do anything for it - even die. If you have freedom, you don't spread it by keeping it to yourself. You spread it by giving others a taste of it. Then those people will do what they can to get it, even bring down and redesign their own government. Fundamental change comes either from within, or by the forceful hand of a conquering military power. And I don't think we're gonna invade China/Cuba any time soon.

RE: Internet Censorship
By clovell on 3/8/2010 10:00:02 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly - isolating a country isn't going to work. Further, forcing democracy on a country isn't going to work, either.

These people have to have a stake in their own freedoms. China has made progess, and eventually they'll get there. America & the West exert more influence via quiet encouragement than via shouting and threats.

RE: Internet Censorship
By JediJeb on 3/5/2010 5:30:13 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is so few American companies are still owned by Americans. And most all companies are now driven simply by making money, not matter what. Very few companies are willing to pass up a profit to "do the right thing". Granted there are a few that will, but they are a very very small minority of the whole. At one time people started companies to make a living, and help others make a living, but it seems now it is only a race to see who can become the wealthiest of the wealthy.

I remember when Sam Walton pushed to sell as much American made products as he could in WalMart, now it is hard to even find something Made in America in WalMart. It's sad to think that if a war did break out that caused us to close our borders, we would have to begin from scratch to make the products we depend on every day in the volume we would need. Food is about the only thing we would be producing that wouldn't be a struggle to replace the loss of foreign supplies. Could we do it? Sure we could, but it would be a painful period during the start up.

I for one hate that we have to bow to those with such terrible human rights practices as China. But we have become a society of people who take the easy way out. We don't care how it has to be done, as long as we can have what we want, when we want it. It has come to the point we are willing to even forfeit that Freedom and Liberty to get the things we want. If the Founding Fathers of this nation can be considered adult, then the leaders and citizens of today are no more than spoiled children compared to them. So few today would be willing to risk the chance to see their weekend sports in order to do what is right, whereas the people who founded our nation were willing to risk their lives for such ideals. Those who are ready to sell us out for their next monetary fix can just leave the country and never come back for all I care.

is the risk worth it?
By supergarr on 3/5/2010 10:19:27 AM , Rating: 2

RE: is the risk worth it?
By carniver on 3/5/2010 1:31:00 PM , Rating: 2
It isn't as simple as it first appears. Think Google is using uncensorship as a revenge for Chinese government hacking into their servers? That's not going to work, the Chinese government doesn't follow any laws, they are the law and can even send armies of people into their towers to confiscate all their servers, if they accuse Google of any anti-government acts.

What is happening is that Google is struggling to gain marketshare in China, and they want to use "uncensored content" as a bait to Chinese users so they switch search engines. And this time they just found a reason that gives them more lobbying power with the government.

moot point
By Smilin on 3/5/2010 10:48:40 AM , Rating: 2
Google is going to lose this battle.

They'll either bow into pressure or they'll be forced out of the country. There is no "following suit" here.

By Rosiemeow on 3/5/2010 1:24:36 PM , Rating: 2

This is the biggest crock of propaganda ever spewed out of the White House. Google was a major contributor to the Obama campaign. China has the largest Internet population in the world. The *supposed* attack on Google was not sophisticated, if there was one at all which most with half a brain in the US understand. The CIA, SS, APNIC & CERT were all well aware of the so called port scans and "alleged" hacks supposedly originating from "China" and have been so for years, and have done nothing - the block of IP addresses they supposedly came from have contact information that is invalid, and could have easily been set up by anyone, anywhere. APNIC is well aware the IP address is registered with invalid information (FYI, APNIC is in Australia). It is, after all, good for the US economy to sell security software and keep whatever software developers that are left here in the US in work. And why should China worry about it - they do, after all, own 51% of Symantec. The first report of these hacks and scans came from a supposed "Congressional Aide" on some hokey political site over a year ago. This is nothing new. China has the world's largest Internet population in the world, and Google stands to lose astronomical amounts of potential revenue with porn being their biggest money generating source. Google forgets China is their *customer* and regardless of what WE want and like, it is China's choice what *they* want and like, and certainly not Hillary Clinton's. And frankly, China should not and does not care, and will hopefully take it for the stupidity it really is, since there has been NO substantiation to Google's claim - no details, no information except to say it happened. C'mon now.

Our US Internet infrastructure security is a joke here, in fact if one calls the White House and asks to speak with the "Cyber Czar" office, they will tell you they don't even know what a cyber czar is. Any offending IP block that's been scanning ports worldwide can be easily blocked, but have not been. No need to read this whole list - just look at hu is Number One and scroll down to the very bottom to see who is last:

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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