New York : Google’s pull-out from China was partly motivated by co-founder Sergey Brin’s own memories of repression in the Soviet Union, Brin told the Wall Street Journal Thursday.
Google announced Monday that it was suspending its portal in China, months after suspects hacked into its system in a cyber-attack that originated in China, in part to access the emails of human-rights activists.
Brin, who emigrated to the US from the Soviet Union at the age of six in 1979, said that China’s web censorship and suppression of dissidents reminded him of the “totalitarianism” of his youth.
“In some aspects of their policy, particularly with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents, I see the same earmarks of totalitarianism, and I find that personally quite troubling,” he said.
Brin, who still takes responsibility for the day-to-day running of Google along with other co-founder Larry Page and chief executive Eric Schmidt, said that the compromises the company had had to make when operating in China had become too big.
After the Summer Olympics of 2008, the country began increasing its web censorship and interference in Google’s operations.
“China was ever-present,” he said. “One out of five meetings that I attended, there was some component specifically applied to China in a different way than other countries.”
Chinese mainland users are now being re-routed to a site in Hong Kong that is not censored. But users have already complained of limitations to their searches. Results showed up but the websites were still blocked.
Brin says Google’s move is still positive, and sends a signal to other countries, such as Australia, which is proposing a system which would filter out information judged objectionable to children.
“One of the reasons I am glad we are making this move in China is that the China situation was really emboldening other countries to try and implement their own firewalls,” he said.