Google Accuses China of Black Ops

It's like something out of an espionage novel. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) has accused China of blocking some Gmail messages sent within the country.

"There is no technical issue on our side; we have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail," a company spokesperson told InformationWeek in an emailed statement.

Accusations don't get much more serious than that. Interestingly, the report is consistent with a December release on WikiLeaks that showed a concerted effort by Chinese leadership to hack U.S. websites, including Google. Break out the tux and martini mix, Mr. Bond.

Google has tussled with Chinese officials before over censorship, and its near-exit from operations in the Sino Superpower has led to big gains for hometown search hero Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) . This feels like Round 2 of a long-term fight.

China isn't about to back down. Reuters reports a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman calling the accusations "unacceptable" without elaborating. Maybe, but there's no denying that censorship of Chinese websites has intensified in the wake of calls for protests inspired by successful uprisings the Middle East.

For Google and its investors, the whole affair probably doesn't amount to much. But there's also context to consider. What happens when China decides to censor e-commerce as much as it censors content? What happens when you can't buy goods from certain companies because officials deem their sites worth blocking?

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , and every other U.S. e-commerce company with Chinese operations has something to lose here, which means that what looks like a China-Google affair today won't stay that way forever.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about Google's stance on censorship and China's alleged assault on Gmail using the comments box below.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is off to an appointment. Bye now.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (3)

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  • Report this Comment On March 22, 2011, at 8:06 PM, kickchina wrote:

    about time we run our own black ops lead by NSA with background help from GOOG and Microsoft or x-employees of such . With he large number of copied, poorly protected computer systems in China would be nice to target security agency and other government agencies. We should also blatantly develop tools to bypass the great firewall and distribute such to chinese citizens.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2011, at 12:17 PM, aloeveraw wrote:

    Here we go again, all nonsense from Google. My friends in China have no problem whatsoever accessing their gmail account and sending and receiving emails from me.

    I am really amused by Google's desperate attempt to accuse China of something they've made up. Enough is enough. People in China get sick of all the nonsense. Do us a favor. Stop whining, and maybe you can win back some compassion, as there are still people that like to use Google for English search.

    To be honest, Google is poor in Chinese search. That is why it is not doing very well. Who would use a search engineer, if the results turn out not as nearly as good as anther search engine gives. Baidu is definitely the king of the search for Chinese.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2011, at 5:40 PM, RobertC314 wrote:

    aloeveraw,

    (a) They state that only some messages are blocked (most likely those that say things the Chinese don't like). I assume that since your messages are getting through you aren't planning a revolution or badmouthing the communist party

    (b) Only Chinese outside of China get sick of these types of things, the ones inside never even hear about it

    (c) This is about GMail, not Google Search, and the quality of the service is irrelevant. The issue is that they are discretely censoring messages based on a whim. As the author states, this could be just the beginning of another more clandestine round of free-trade violations as Chinese filter or even change the contents of foreign messages without either side knowing it was done. Imagine how much Chinese business Amazon.com will get if they are seeing all the prices double what they actually are.

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