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China censoring is not Google’s business: CEO

Google’s chief executive Eric E Schmidt, whose company has been sharply criticised for complying with Chinese censorship, said last week that he had not lobbied to change the country’s censorship laws and, for now, had no plans to do so.

“I think it’s arrogant for us to walk into a country where we are just beginning operations and tell that country how to run itself,” Schmidt said on a recent visit to China to promote Google’s new Chinese search engine. He announced the opening of a research and development centre in Beijing’s high-technology district and also introduced a Chinese-language brand name for the company’s domestic search engine — Gu Ge, which roughly translates as “a harvesting song”.

But in the sessions, which involved both Chinese and foreign reporters at various times, Schmidt faced questions about the censorship controversy that has involved Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco Systems. Schmidt defended the decision to cooperate with the censors, saying that accepting the restrictions of Chinese law was unavoidable for Google to enter the Chinese market.

“We had a choice to enter the country and follow the law,” Schmidt said. “Or we had a choice not to enter the country.”

The company’s regular, unfiltered search engine is still available in China, although it is significantly slowed by the Chinese censors. And the filtered search engine does notify a user when information has been censored. In addition, Google has not introduced e-mail or blogging to avoid being told to turn over personal information on dissidents to officials. Yahoo has been denounced for providing information that helped Chinese authorities convict such dissidents.

Google is still negotiating to receive the full complement of licenses to operate in the country. Schmidt declined to discuss which licensing hurdles remain. China already has more than 111 million Internet users, the second-highest number in the world, after the United States. Schmidt said he expected China to become one of Google’s most important markets.

NY TIMES

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April 18, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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