Google looks to leave China

Internet giant refuses to be part of country's censorship

Google is expected to announce this week whether it will close its China website, google.cn, over Web censorship by the end of this month.

Growing signs that Google is on the way out of the world’s biggest Internet market have prompted a series of angry broadsides in the Chinese state media, accusing the U.S. Web giant of politicizing the censorship dispute.

The state news agency also came out in defense of government censorship, saying that no country allows “unrestricted flow on the Internet of pornography, violence, gambling or superstitious content, or content on government subversion, ethnic separatism, religious extremism, racialism, terrorism and anti-foreign feeling.”

Google caused a real stir in January when it said it no longer wished to be part of Beijing’s Internet censorship, prompting some Internet users to place flowers outside the company’s Beijing headquarters.

The decision was an uncomfortable one as it served as a reminder that many Western companies have chosen to compromise their principles on free speech and censorship to cash in on the burgeoning China market.

The Beijing government is keen to foster business and trade on the Internet, but regularly cracks down on porn or items that are deemed subversive.

This is a broad umbrella that includes blogs by human-rights activists or foreign pro-democracy groups, as well as organizations representing Tibetan or Uighur rights. It also means social networking sites Twitter and Facebook and online video site YouTube are banned in China. The mechanism that controls access to these sites, often referred to as the Great Firewall of China, blocks search terms, access to politically sensitive images and a host of other information.

Google.cn has about 35% of China’s search market.

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