Google v. China: More Updates

Microsoft, as was mentioned before, is not going to pull out of China and has actually spoken up against Google’s stance. Ballmer called their stand against censorship an irrational business decision.

In fact, Google founder Sergei Brin (born in Moscow in the USSR) has long championed against working in China, encountering resistance from Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The Independent details some of Brin’s history and his difficulties with Google’s work in China.

Microsoft’s take appears to resonate with Google’s CEO. It appears to also echo the political stand that favors “engagement” with oppressive regimes over the principled rejection of any oppression. Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, CEO Steve Ballmer, and Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie have all rejected pulling out of China.

In contrast, Twitter cofounder and CEO Evan Williams elaborated at the World Economic Forum on Twitter’s plans to make the service less prone to censorship such as has been attempted in China and Iran. In fact, on 9 December 2009, a Chinese lawyer was jailed briefly for teaching about Twitter and how to use it.

What makes this interesting is the far-reaching impact that Google’s hack and response is having. Politicians are talking about stands against China; diplomats are reconsidering US-Chinese relations; companies are reconsidering their Chinese operations; security specialists are considering new computer security implications; and some are worrying about their Chinese jobs. Censorship is being discussed like never before.

One organization dedicated to freedom of the press around the world is Reporters Sans Frontieres ( RSF has an extensive section about China, as well as other countries. They have also published a guide for cyber-dissidents as well.

Google v. China: the Saga Continues

Last Thursday, 21 January 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out against Internet censorship and stated that the United States would take a stronger stance against Internet censorship; Chinese censorship was referenced several times in the speech. Both ComputerWorld and CNet had articles covering her speech.

During the speech, Secretary Clinton urged US companies to push back against censorship.

What is interesting is this: while the focus is currently on China, they are not the only one; in particular, Australia seems to be favoring censorship. A lot of European countries have censorship as well.

For its part, China responded angrily against Clinton’s comments. China said that the US position elaborated by Clinton could harm US-China relations. China also denied having anything to do with the attack on Google or other companies.

Computer security specialist Bruce Schneier published an essay on talking about the security weaknesses inherent in backdoor access systems, using the Google hack as an example. John Mark Walker contests Bruce’s facts in an article on OStatic, stating that it was not a backdoor at all, but rather something much less sinister – a product used by Google to assist in responding to warrants.

Earlier, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft would remain in China, and would not pull out of that market.

Google has also delayed the release of their new phone, the Nexus One, into the Chinese market.

Google’s research into the hack now suggests that Google China insiders may have assisted. Attackers also used instant messaging to try to get Google employees to click on links to malware. After compromising one account, the attackers would send a link to all buddies from that account, hoping that someone would click.

Chinese human rights web sites reported this week that they had been attacked; while unproven, they suspect the Chinese authorities. One of the organizations stated that attacks come during “sensitive times” in China, such as the current Google-China flap.

UPDATE: There is also some suspicion (though no proof) that the Chinese were responsible for attacking three US oil companies in 2008 according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor discussed in an article in ComputerWorld.

UPDATE: Over at the Register, an article points out that the attack (which had been suggested as uniquely Chinese in origin) appears to be much older and more widely known than previously acknowledged. This means that the proof that China was the actual culprit becomes weaker.