Two months after Google (GOOG) threatened to close up shop in China, saying it could no longer brook the government's censorship laws, the search giant pulled the plug on its China-based search engine on Monday, March 22.
In an interview shortly after the announcement, Google co-founder Sergey Brin told The New York Times that his experience growing up in -- and then fleeing -- the Soviet Union "has definitely shaped my views, and some of my company's views."
Referring to Chinese government information censors, Brin said: "Our objection is to those forces of totalitarianism."
Google redirected users from Google.cn to Google.com.hk, a site based in Hong Kong, which, while part of China, doesn't follow the same censorship laws. But hours after Google's move, China was already blocking its citizens from completing politically sensitive searches on the Hong Kong site, one expert said.
Here is a timeline of Google's dispute with China over the last two months, as covered by DailyFinance:
Jan. 12, 2010 -- Google threatened to close its operations in China, home to the world's largest Internet user base, after disclosing details of a massive cyber attack that "resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google." The Web giant also vowed to end its Chinese language search censorship, in a defiant rebuke aimed at China's communist regime.
Jan. 13, 2010 -- Chinese officials offered their first reaction to Google's decision to reject Chinese censorship -- and potentially quit the country altogether -- declaring, "China's Internet is open and the Chinese government encourages development of the Internet." An official added: "Chinese law proscribes any form of hacking activity."
Jan. 15, 2010 -- The White House offered its support for Google's position, as new details emerged about the cyber-attack that prompted Google to threaten to quit the world's largest country. Cyber-security experts at Verisign iDefense labs said their analysis showed that "the attack is the work of actors operating on behalf of or in the direct employ of official intelligence entities of the People's Republic of China."
Jan. 16, 2010 -- Yahoo was drawn into the growing international dispute between Google and the Chinese government after it said it was "aligned with Google." Yahoo said it, too, had been targeted by hackers and condemned "any attempts to infiltrate company networks to obtain user information."
Jan. 18, 2010 -- Foreign reporters based in China were targeted by hackers who infiltrated their Google email accounts, a Chinese-based journalism group said, as Google explored the possibility that "one or more" of its own employees helped carry out the attack.
Jan. 19, 2010 -- Google postponed the launch of its first mobile phones in China, a further sign of the widening consequences of its decision to challenge the Chinese government over cyber-attacks, cyber-security and Internet freedom. Google said it would be "irresponsible" to launch the phones given the controversy.
Jan. 21, 2010 -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Web censorship and cyber-attacks and offered her support for Google in its row with China over cyber-security and online censorship. "American companies need to take a proactive role in challenging censorship," Clinton said. "They need to consider what's right, not simply what makes a quick profit."
Jan. 23, 2010 -- China said it "doesn't need any lessons from the United States on what to do or how" on the Internet. A government spokesperson called Clinton "disrespectful" and said Internet companies like Google have to follow the law if they want to do business in China.
March 10, 2010 -- Google said its dispute with China over censorship will be resolved "soon" -- one way or another -- with Nicole Wong, the company's vice president and deputy general counsel, saying "Google is firm in its decision that it will stop censoring our search results for China."
March 13, 2010 -- Google was reported to be "99.9% certain" to shutter Google.cn, in light of the Chinese government's refusal to relax its Web filtering, two months after challenging China over Web censorship. The two sides appeared to have reached a stalemate.
March 15, 2010 -- Banking giant UBS said Google could lose $500 million this year if it closes its China-based search engine. Analysts pointed out that only amounts to slightly over 2% of Google's annual revenue. Meanwhile, the Chinese government tried with some success to censor news about its censorship dispute with Google.
March 19, 2010 -- Google was said to be readying an announcement shutting its Chinese language search engine, according to Chinese media reports. Sources said the company would issue a statement Monday, March 22.
March 20, 2010 -- Chinese media organs lashed out at Google in an apparently coordinated assault, with one paper suggesting Google is linked to the U.S. intelligence agencies. "It is ridiculous and arrogant for an American company to attempt to change China's laws. The country doesn't need a politicized Google or Google's politics," one outlet said.
March 22, 2010 -- Google said it would end its censorship of its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn. Users trying to access that site were redirected to Google.com.hk, where the company said it would offer uncensored search results in simplified Chinese.
March 22, 2010 -- Google drew praise from human rights activists for its decision to shutter its China-based search engine and redirect users to its Hong Kong-based site, but China almost immediately began blocking politically sensitive searches on the Hong Kong site, one expert said.
March 22, 2010 -- Google's decision to stop its self-censorship of Chinese-language search results may be bad news in the long run for Google shareholders, but it's meaningless right now. Based on fundamentals and valuation, Google is a screaming buy. In the short and intermediate term, Google's business is brisk and its shares look compellingly cheap.
March 24, 2010 -- GoDaddy.com announced it will no longer register domains from within the world's largest country. GoDaddy's actions come after the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) issued rules requiring domain applicants to submit detailed personal information, including color headshots. The company said it will stop offering .cn registrations -- the top-level domain used in China.
March 25, 2010 -- Google has begun incorporating real-time Twitter results into its new Hong Kong-based search engine, in a move sure to inflame tensions with China. The micro-blogging service has been filtered out for nearly a year.
March 30, 2010 -- Google says its mobile services are now being partially blocked in China, as the cat and mouse game between Chinese authorities and Google continues.
March 30, 2010 -- Google struggled to explain what caused a major outage to its new Hong Kong-based search engine. After first blaming itself, the company then blamed the blockage on the Chinese government. Also, the Yahoo accounts of four journalists working China were reportedly hacked.
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