Google has confirmed that it has secured permission from China to continue operating its search engine, bringing some closure to a six-month showdown over Internet censorship.
Friday morning, the search giant updated its corporate blog to announce that the Chinese government had renewed Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Internet Content Provider license, a necessary condition of doing business on the Web in that country.
“We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide Web search and local products to our users in China,” wrote David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer.
The decision of the Chinese government was far from a certainty.
A week and a half ago, Google announced that it was backing away from its policy of automatically redirecting all searches conducted by residents of mainland China to Hong Kong, where the company operates free from Chinese content-filtering requirements.
That move followed negotiations with Chinese government officials who made it clear that the automatic redirect was a deal-breaker if Google sought to continue to operate on the mainland, Drummond said.
The license was up for renewal on June 30, and, if the government denied it, “Google would effectively go dark in China,” Drummond warned.
Under its new policy, Google has set up a landing page on Google.cn linking to its Hong Kong site, where users can access unfiltered content along with the company’s other online services.
In that way, Google aimed to strike a balance between adhering to the letter of Chinese law and placating government officials while still making a stand against online censorship.
Chinese officials had condemned Google’s decision to automatically route traffic to Hong Kong, telling state media outlets that the move violated the country’s laws regarding online content.
The standoff began in January with Google’s revelation of a series of coordinated cyber attacks against it and other U.S. companies and intrusions into the Gmail accounts of Chinese human-rights activists.
Google took the occasion to announce that it would no longer censor Internet content as it had been doing in accordance with Chinese law. It also threatened to shutter its operations there if an agreement could not be reached.
That move drew the attention of senior administration officials and members of Congress, prompting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deliver a major speech on the subject of Internet freedom, calling for the Chinese government to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the cyberattacks Google described.
Several lawmakers rushed to praise Google’s move, and they called on other tech companies to follow suit. One firm, domain-name registrar Go Daddy, announced at a congressional hearing that it would no longer issue Web addresses in China.
Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.