China Tells Google to Toe the Line

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The problem with picking a with with a unilateral dictatorship is that it has absolutely no problem playing hardball. Without mentioning Google specifically, China has issued its first response to Google’s stated intentions to lift state censorship on its google.cn search service and potentially quit the Chinese market altogether. The bottom line: obey Chinese law if you want to do business in China.

China’s state-run news agency indicates Chinese officials are still seeking more information from Google about its announcement and intention, but the government’s official response leaves no room for compromise on China’s extensive Internet censorship. Internet companies must abide by Chinese law and “propaganda discipline,” as well as assist the Chinese government in blocking online pornography, cyberattacks, criminal activity, and any content government censors deem inappropriate. Minister Wang Chen of China’s State Council Information Office was quoted as saying “Companies have to concretely increase the ability of Internet media to guide public opinion in order to uphold Internet safety.”

A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry also noted that hacking and email tampering are against Chinese law. Google’s outrage over the China situation stems from a coordinated attack against Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Meanwhile, VeriSign’s iDefense security service has published a report with technical information about the December attack against Google and dozens of other companies, including evidence that would seem to link the attacks to the Chinese government or its agents, as well as a similar attack carried out against U.S. companies in July 2009. Part of the exploit involved malicious code in PDF files designed to exploit a vulnerability in Adobe software. Reports also have sources looking into whether there was any insider involvement in the attacks.

Some members of the Chinese press have attributed Google’s threat to leave China as a way to save face: while Google may be the top Internet search service in most of the world, in China Baidu accounts for about 60 percent of the market.

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