Google vs. China: Search giant blinks
LONDON (CNNMoney.com) -- Google slightly altered its business strategy in China late Monday in an attempt to balance the company's desire to keep its Chinese website with its goal of avoiding self-censorship.
Google for the past three months has been automatically redirecting visitors to its Chinese site, google.cn, to its non-censored Hong Kong search engine, google.com.hk.
But Chinese government officials told the search giant that it finds the auto-redirect "unacceptable" and would likely revoke Google's license to operate in country if it continues that practice, according to a company blog post.
As a result, Google said that over the next several days, it will stop automatically directing its mainland Chinese users to its non-censored Hong Kong search engine. Instead, it has begun to display a "landing page" on google.cn for some users, which requires users to click on an image that links to the Hong Kong site.
Google's license is up for renewal on Wednesday, and the company said it has resubmitted its renewal application based on its new approach. The company said its new strategy is consistent with local law and its commitment to not self-censor.
Banned ... by Google
"We are going with this new approach because we would like to try to provide our service to Chinese users," Google China spokeswoman Marsha Wong told CNN.
Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) had been using the automatic redirect after deciding it would no longer censor results in China. Google stopped censoring search results in China in March. Its stance against censorship of its China site toughened after Google announced in January that it had discovered a targeted cyber attack on its network infrastructure.
To circumvent China's strict censorship laws, Google no longer hosts its search operations within mainland China -- it physically moved all of its Chinese servers to Hong Kong. As a result, Google no longer needs to adhere to China's censorship laws, and it is up to the Chinese government to block access to the results it finds objectionable.
The arrangement is similar to how Chinese users have long been able to access Google's main search page, the uncensored google.com: The Chinese government allows access to some result pages and blocks pages it does not want its users to see.
The announcement had some impact on Google's stock. Shares were down 4% Tuesday morning in early trading.
It's interesting how most people (Even Google) didn't get the irony of their previous actions. Redirecting their mainland search url to Hong Kong's to avoid 'censorship' of results was in and of itself a form of censorship.
Now they will give people the URL they asked for originally (uncensored) and let the censorship part be China's responsibility. They didn't 'blink', they finally did it right.