Google has no firm date set for censorship to end

There are many companies that are based in America that operate abroad. Some of these companies operate in countries where citizens are not afforded the freedoms that many take for granted here in America. This is common for technology companies like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft that operate in China and North Korea among other countries where censorship is common.

These companies are often forced at comply with laws in these foreign countries that force them to do things that would be illegal or violate freedoms of users if conducted in America. This is especially true in the internet search market in China. The Chinese government forces search giants like Google and Yahoo to censor search results making content deemed objectionable or that speaks out against the government to be removed from access by customers.

Following attacks, apparently by Chinese hackers, Google has put pressure on the Chinese government with threats that the search engine will stop censoring its search results in China. The attacks on Google occurred in mid-December. They have been linked to two schools in China. Wong pointed out that Google isn’t prepared to say who carried out the attacks against its network.

PC Magazine reports that Google has no firm timeframe for eliminating the censorship of its search results in China. Google's Nicole Wong, VP, and general counsel for the search firm said that Google's big concern is its employees in China.

Wong said, "We have many employees in the ground, some of whom are very dear colleagues of mine and so we recognize both the seriousness and both the sensitivity of the decision we're making and we want to figure out a way to get to that end … in a way that's appropriate and responsible. It's a very human issue for us."

Google doesn't come out and say it, but the feeling is that the search firm fears its Chinese employees might be held accountable if the search engine stopped the government mandated censorship of search results.

Google was the only tech firm invited to testify before a Senate subcommittee this week who agreed to testify. Wong testified in front of the subcommittee saying, "We are firm in our decision that we will not censor our search results in China and we are working toward that end."

Pressure is being put on American companies operating in countries where censorship is forced on citizens. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced censorship when she said in January, "Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century. In the last year, we've seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the Internet."

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, sent 26 letters out to various tech firms in February asking them about activities in China and urging the firms to join the Global Network Initiative (GNI). The GNI is a voluntary code of conduct for companies that operate in countries that restrict the internet. So far, only three major firms have joined the GNI including Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

Durbin said this week, "I'm disappointed that a year and a half after the GNI started, no new companies have joined. With a few notable exceptions, the tech industry seems unwilling to regulate itself and unwilling to engage in a dialogue with Congress."

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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