Google's Chinese search engine was launched in January 2006. Google agreed back then to censor some of the results which in the opinion of company officials was better than not offering access to the search engine at all in China.
Google's stance on the issue has changed lately with the uncovering of a targeted attack on the infrastructure of not only Google but at least 20 other large American companies.
A primary goal of the attack was to access Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists which - according to Google - did not really succeed as only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed.
This incident "combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web" have led Google to conclude that they should review their business operations in China.
"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" says David Drummond, SVP, Google's Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer.
Is Google really going all or nothing in China? Not really. Google explicitly stated that they will have talks with the Chinese government about this which means that they are willing to negotiate. It is also clear that Google does not have a problem with censorship if you look at Google's search engines in other countries.
Update: Google's Chinese search engine is still available, but redirecting to the company's Hong Kong based search engine at the moment. If you open google.cn in a browser, a static image is displayed instead of a search engine even though it depicts how the search engine looks like.
A click anywhere on the image loads the Google Hong Kong search engine instead from where searches can be run.
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