What’s really behind Google’s plan to pull out of China

Censorship or a simple matter of dollars and cents?

To hear Google tell it, the Internet giant is reviewing the viability of its presence in China in the wake of alleged hacker attacks and concerns over freedom of speech. But as The Economist points out, Google’s pending decision to pull out the People’s Republic “may be as much about poor business prospects as ethics.” To be sure, since Google set up shop in China four years ago and began offering a self-censored version of its search engine, Chinese officials have accused the company of, among other things, providing links to pornographic sites. At the same time, Google maintains that, as of late, its users in China have been the target of what the firm’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, describes as “highly sophisticated” phishing and malware attacks. According to Drummond, Google is planning to stop filtering its search engine, knowing full well that “this might result in having to shut down and Google’s offices in China.” But considering the amount it costs Google to run its operation there, and the fact that the search engine remains a distant second in popularity to China’s Baidu, the move may be a simple matter of dollars and cents.

The Economist