Google, which was censoring its searches in compliance with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) demands, still faced cyber attacks. Google announced that it is “no longer willing to continue censoring [its] results on Google.cn” after facing “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on [Google’s] corporate infrastructure originating from China.” David Drummond, Senior Vice President for Corporate Development and Chief Legal Advisor, wrote on Google’s official blog that the primary purpose of the attack was to gain access to the “Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.” Google made this statement after realizing that for the CCP, censorship is not enough.
Economic liberalization along with the free flow of information was supposed to help bring political freedoms to China. When entering the China market, Google reasoned that getting some information into China was better than no information. Now it is rethinking that position.
The CCP understands that the Internet is a powerful vehicle for transmitting information that empowers individuals to demand accountability from their leaders. Google claims they began to detect this attack targeting the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activist in “mid-December.” Also in December, the Chinese government was filing a case against activist Liu Xiaobo for “inciting subversion of state power” for co-authoring Charter 08, a document that gained prominence through the Internet for demanding the protection of human rights, comprehensive political reforms, and a democratic government in China.
Proponents of the freedom of information as an avenue for justice and accountability in China therefore must also adjust their strategy. When Secretary Clinton makes her upcoming speech on Internet freedom, she must realize that just pumping information toward authoritarian regimes like China is insufficient. With its Great Firewall and army of web monitors, China can greatly limit the effectiveness and reach of information on the Internet. At the same time, China actively disseminates its own deeply flawed version of information to people inside and outside of China.
The U.S. government and advocates for freer access to information have to provide people, especially those inside China, with accurate, truthful information. The holes in the Great Firewall are small and new ways to avoid web censors like “feed over email”(FOE) need to be constantly created and updated. Google has discovered the unrelenting efforts of the Chinese government. With an adjusted strategy, champions of information access as an approach for improved justice and accountability in China must also be unrelenting in their efforts to break down the Great Firewall. The range of China’s Great Firewall on the Internet has caused a rethinking of strategy from Google, signaling an even greater need to readjust approaches of sending information into China.