Google License To Operate In China Questioned; Will Disclosure Have To Go?

has no license for China service: newspaper
" from Reuters covers new
questions on whether Google is able to operate legally in China. That seems
absurd given the worldwide coverage of Google
bending to
the Chinese government’s censorship demands last month. The fracas also raises
questions on whether Google will find that it can no longer even disclose that
censorship is happening, something that is the company’s best defense against
critics that say it shouldn’t filter results.

The Reuters article covers a Beijing News report saying that Google doesn’t
have an Internet Content Provider license needed to operate in China. Google
says it uses the ICP license of a local company, which Google says is
common practice. It also says the ICP number is listed at the bottom of its
search results on Google China.

I don’t see the number on search results pages, but I do see one at the
bottom of the Google China home page, like this:


I don’t recall seeing this number before on the page, but the cached

of Google China shows it was in place at least as of Feb. 17, so it
wasn’t just slapped up in response to today’s news. Checking further, I have a
locally cached copy showing the number in place as of Jan. 25.

China’s Ministry Of Information is said to be "concerned" and investigating
the situation. It boggles the mind that the Ministry Of Information might not
have realized that Google believed it was operating legally in China. There’s
simply no way anyone concerned about controlling the internet in China could
have missed the worldwide publicity about Google new site. Heck, Google was
rapped in US congressional hearings last week about bending to China laws.

If the Ministry Of Information really does find Google is unlicensed, then
what on earth was it doing to police the Chinese internet over the past month?
How could it miss something like that? And who exactly is giving Google its
marching orders on stuff to censor?

As it turns out, according to this AP
article, the
ministry is aware that Google isn’t using its own license. Whether that’s legal
or not is what’s being investigated now, it appears.

In all likelihood, the entire thing will blow over into a non-issue. I doubt
China’s going to suddenly kick Google out. But in a

longer version
of the Reuters story, there’s something that might be a
bigger issue for Google, the idea that the disclosure it’s doing of censorship
might come under pressure to be ended. Says Reuters:

The China Business Times, a business paper with a sometimes nationalist
slant, blasted Google for even telling users that links are censored.

"Does a business operating in China need to constantly tell customers that
it’s abiding by the laws of the land?" it said, adding that Google had
"incited" a debate about censorship.

The paper likened Google to "an uninvited guest" telling a dinner host "the
dishes don’t suit his taste, but he’s willing to eat them as a show of respect
to the host".

It’ll will be interesting to see if other papers and media outlets put
pressure on Google to remove disclosure, which in turn could cause the Chinese
government to declare that it has to go. If so, Google has a serious problem.
Providing disclosure is a key element to it justifying the censorship it does
for the Chinese government, as it

once again in last week’s congressional hearings.

For more on Google’s controversial entry into China, see these past articles
from us:

Want to comment or discuss? Please visit the
Agrees To Chinese Censorship
thread at our Search Engine Watch Forums.

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