Google co-founder Sergey Brin urges US to act over China web censorship

Published on The Guardian.co.uk, by Bobbie Johnson in San Francisco and Ian Katz The Guardian, 24 March 2010.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has called on Washington to take a stand against China’s censorship of the internet, urging the US to make the issue a “high priority”.

Brin, talking to the Guardian about Google’s decision yesterday to lift censorship from its Chinese internet search engine, called on government and businesses to act in order to put pressure on Beijing. “I certainly hope they make it a high priority,” he said. “Human rights issues deserve equal time to the trade issues that are high priority now … I hope this gets taken seriously” …

(Listen also the audio, 3.26 min).  

… Brin has long advocated lifting censorship from Google in China. He has said that his strong feelings stemmed from the fact that he was born in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and that his parents, Jewish scientists, left Moscow in 1979 after encountering widespread antisemitism. “It touches me more than other people having been born in a country that was totalitarian and having seen that for the first few years of my life,” he said.

But after four years of self-censoring, Google’s about-face now means that it essentially offers the same filtered service to Chinese users that it did in 2006, before it opted to comply with Beijing’s wishes.

Asked whether he felt that Google had been wrong to go into China in the first place, he said: “I think it’s really hard to say. I do think we helped some. “Obviously it’s impossible to replace history, and we made a pretty reasonable set of decisions at the time.”

He added: “I hope the political system in China evolves so that we can have more direct involvement again … I hope this leads to a path where the doors start to open more.”

Indeed, Brin suggested that the more companies like Google were only accessible outside the firewall, the more pressure would grow on China. (full text).

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