Google’s stunning declaration that it would stop cooperating with Chinese Internet censorship and consider shutting down its operations in the country ricocheted around the world Wednesday. . . . Google linked its decision to sophisticated cyberattacks on its computer systems that it suspected originated in China and that were aimed, at least in part, at the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.The nature of these cyber attacks remains murky, and several other companies, including Adobe Software, also say they were attacked.
I think the relationship between the Chinese government and the Internet has important implications for the 21st century world, so I follow these stories closely. If China can become a modern economy while still heavily heavily censoring the news its citizens receive, that has implications for the whole world. Can a high-tech economy thrive under conditions of strict censorship? I actually suspect that one can. A related questions is, can companies make more money by kowtowing to authoritarian governments, or by insisting that they put their customers first? This one I am not sure about, but I do suspect that in the short term Google will lose more from ceasing censorship than it will gain. The internet and the information economy will not guarantee freedom any more than industrialization or radio did. It is still up to the people to insist on their freedoms, through political means.
Intelligent reaction from James Fallows.
Google's official statement here, emphasizing how seriously they take the privacy of their email customers.