Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Google stance puts spotlight on search rivals

February 2010

Microsoft and Yahoo appear unlikely to reconsider their positions in China in the wake of Google’s announcement last month that it will no longer allow censorship of its search results in the country.  

Google concedes that it may be forced to pull out of the world’s largest online market as a result of its new stance, which has upset the Chinese government.

But attention has now focused on whether Microsoft and Yahoo will follow suit. Steven Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft, which runs the recently launched Bing search engine in China, has said he has no plans to pull out of China and cannot see the sense behind Google’s new position. Yahoo has been more sympathetic, saying it is ‘aligned’ with Google’s views, but has declined to comment on whether it will withdraw.

Yahoo closed its offices in China in 2005 when it sold its business there to the Alibaba Group, which runs the censored Alibaba search engine. But it retains a 39 per cent stake in Alibaba and does not appear to be looking at selling the holding. Alibaba has condemned Yahoo’s support for Google as ‘reckless’.  

Some commentators believe both Yahoo and Microsoft will wait to see what happens to Google before deciding on how to proceed in China.

Google has said it will no longer filter search results in China and wants to discuss with the Chinese government ‘the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law’. The government is expected to deny the company the right to uncensored material.

Google says profits will not suffer if this happens, even though it accounts for nearly one third of Chinese searches.

Google | Asia | Censorship

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