Beijing Ping Pong: Google and White House Wait for China’s Response
January 14, 2010
(ChattahBox)—The White House and Google are waiting for China’s response to the search engine giant’s announcement that it will no longer provide filtered search results to comply with China’s censorship laws. Google is prepared to leave China altogether if China balks at Google’s decision. The fact that Google would just walk away from China and the country’s billions of eager Internet users is remarkable in itself, but it’s the Why that has the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton involved. Google’s threat to leave China came after the search engine giant discovered it was a victim of a massive cyberattack from within China. The Chinese hackers stole proprietary information and breached Google’s Gmail to search for human rights activists ready to expose China’s many human rights abuses. And that’s not all, at least 20 other U.S. companies operating within China were also attacked by the Chinese hacking operation. Additionally, Google discovered a Chinese-based phishing operation that routinely breached Gmail accounts of advocates of human rights in China.
Google briefed several lawmakers, before posting its announcement on the company’s blog on Tuesday:
“We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech,” wrote David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer.
The cyberattacks and China’s increasingly aggressive approach at censoring the Internet, led Google to take its extreme position added Drummond:
“These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”
Meanwhile, the White House and Secretary of State Clinton are carefully repeating the statement: “We look forward to a response from the Chinese.”
When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the showdown between Beijing and Google on Wednesday, he responded that the Obama administration had spoken to Google about the issue. “We have had conversations and discussions with them about what they talked about yesterday. I don’t want to get much farther afield than that,” said Gibbs. “The right of a free Internet is what many of you heard the president talk about in China.”
The scope of the Chinese cyberattack, Google’s strong reaction to it and the carefully measured statements from the White House, illustrates the sensitivity of the situation. The massive cyberattacks also point to an international incident in the making and could impact our future foreign relations with the giant Communist country.
And lawmakers are already looking to make political hay from the incident. Two Republican Congressmen, Reps. Chris Smith (NJ) and Frank Wolf (VA) drafted legislation making it illegal for U.S. technology companies to do business with repressive governments. And Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) intends to propose legislation to strengthen our cybersecurity operations.
Next move, China. This should get interesting. Ping, pong.
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