Sometime in December 2009, Google fended off a “sophisticated and targeted attack” in China, the goal of which seemed to be to access the accounts of Chinese human rights activists. This attack, and other attempts at the surveillance of human rights activists in China that were revealed during Google’s investigation into the attack, lead Google to announce a change of policy.
From a January Google Blog post:
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.
Well, as things so often do with large governments, a few weeks has become a few months, and yesterday, the Chinese minister for industry and information technology confirmed that if Google violated Chinese law it would be considered “unfriendly,” “irresponsible,” and “would have to bear the consequences.”
According to the Financial Times, whose source is “familiar with the company’s thinking,” Google is now preparing to close Google.cn:
The FT’s source says that the company remains “adamant” about ending censorship, and is also unwilling to hand over management of Google.cn to a local entity. Though Google.cn will be shut down, Google will keep it’s other Chinese operations going. These include a “research centre in Beijing and a sales force that sells advertising on the Chinese-language Google.com search service, based outside China, to advertisers inside the country.”
The full Financial Times article can be found here.