Google is still smarting over a clash with China last spring, and hasn’t given up on delivering uncensored search results to Chinese citizens, according to comments by the company’s CFO.
Patrick Pichette told the Times of London that Google’s withdrawal from China last spring was simply a “roadblock,” and that the company still wants to serve search results (and ads) to China’s 1.2 billion people.
Google used to comply with China’s censorship laws, but took a stand against the government in early 2010 after it discovered an attack against the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents, which Google suspected (correctly) was driven by the government.
Google eventually redirected users in mainland China to unfiltered results on the company’s Hong Kong search engine. That worked for a while, but then the Chinese government threatened to pull Google’s Internet licence, and the company basically backed down–it continued to operate a site in mainland China, but only delivers results for searches about products and music, as well as some government-approved maps. Meanwhile, Chinese search engine Baidu enjoyed a sudden surge in market share.
Pichette portrayed the company’s interest in China in altruistic terms–the Chinese people have a right to find out who won the Nobel Peace Prize online. But the temptation to censor results in order to deliver paid search advertisements to 1.2 billion people will be awfully hard to pass up, especially as search query growth slows down in the U.S. and Europe. China’s too big for Google to stay out forever.