With China's looming June 30 deadline just a day away, Google has changed its approach in China in hopes of obtaining a renewal of its license to operate there. While surprising in and of itself that Google would even adjust its stance, its latest approach is arguably as aggressively anti-censorship, raising the question of whether the Chinese authorities will be satisfied with the changes.
Last we heard from this deep-rooted saga, in mid-March, Google had found a happy medium between either complying with China censorship laws against its own ethics or shutting down operations in the country entirely: the company merely redirected all users accessing Google China to Google Hong Kong, an unfiltered search engine based in Hong Kong instead of mainland China.
To put it bluntly, China was not content with Google's creativity. Government officials have made it clear to the Silicon Valley company that its Internet Content Provider (ICP) license expiring on June 30 will not be renewed if Google upholds the redirect. That is to say, Google would disappear from China's Internet altogether.
Google's latest approach, laid out in a recent blog post by David Drummond, Google's Chief Legal Officer, appears more anti-censorship than the last, with a dash of feigned obedience to China added for good measure.
Instead of automatically redirecting visitors, the new Google China page waits--just as long as it takes the user to click anywhere on the page--before sending them over to the uncensored Google Hong Kong. Though it is no longer an automatic redirect, the redirect is essentially unavoidable.
"This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page," explained Drummond, in the post. "As a company we aspire to make information available to users everywhere, including China."
Will the changes fly with China? Probably not. But Google has already re-submitted its ICP license renewal application based on this meager update.
June 30 is already less than a day away, so we will all see China's verdict very shortly.