Google may leave China after cyber attack Hibah Yousuf, staff reporter

NEW YORK ( -- Google said Tuesday that it may leave China and shut down its strictly monitored site there,, citing censorship rules and a targeted cyber attack on its network infrastructure.

In a blog post, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer David Drummond said the search giant first detected the attack last month and thought it posed a security threat, adding that the company frequently faces cyber attacks of varying degrees.

But an investigation of the attack exposed evidence that showed the attackers' primary goal was to access Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, Drummond said. While two accounts were hacked, the accessed information was limited to the date the account was created and subject lines, not the content of any emails.

"We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech," wrote Drummond in the post.

When Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) began its operation in China in 2006, it aimed to strike a balance between its stated goal of making the world's information widely available and the requirement that all Internet companies doing business in China adhere to government regulations regarding censorship.

But the attacks changed Google's stance about operating in the country.

"We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law. We recognize this may well mean having to shutdown, and potentially or offices in China," he continued.

A Google spokeswoman said the company doesn't know the likelihood of reaching an agreement with the Chinese government to run an unfiltered site, but if the company ultimately closes down, it will have an "immaterial impact" on the company's revenue.

Efforts by CNN to reach the Chinese Embassy in Washington Tuesday evening were not successful.

For the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square last summer, Web sites across China were forced to shut down for a brief period of time surrounding June 4. For 8 days, blocked all results that came up for Tiananmen Square.

Despite China's effort to control Web browsing, users in China have had access to an "unfiltered" A Google spokeswoman Tuesday told that the company has received ongoing reports of instances when users can no longer access the uncensored site, most likely due to the government's actions.

Drummond also said the Google's investigation showed that at least twenty other large companies from a variety of industries were similarly targeted by the attack, and Google is working with relevant U.S. authorities and in the process of notifying those companies.

Unrelated to the particular attack, Drummond said they company has discovered that accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are Chinese human rights activists have been accessed by third parties most likely through Internet scams and malware.

-- CNN's Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report. To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 24,946.51 72.85 0.29%
Nasdaq 7,481.99 0.25 0.00%
S&P 500 2,752.01 4.68 0.17%
Treasuries 2.85 0.02 0.78%
Data as of 10:28pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Chesapeake Energy Co... 3.06 0.04 1.32%
General Electric Co 14.31 -0.05 -0.35%
Bank of America Corp... 32.17 0.07 0.22%
Ford Motor Co 11.15 0.08 0.72%
Micron Technology In... 60.58 1.74 2.96%
Data as of Mar 16


The European Union has published a long list of American products that it could target if President Donald Trump moves forward with new tariffs on steel and aluminum. More

"It's like competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes," Elon Musk, referring to trade rules with China, tweeted to President Donald Trump. More

Good news for procrastinators: You get two extra days to file your federal income taxes. April 15 falls on a weekend and April 16 is a public holiday in the District of Columbia. More