Sergey Brin: My upbringing in USSR helped 'shape' Google's views on China
Google co-founder Sergey Brin says his experience of living in the Soviet Union has influenced his company's stance.
In an interview with the New York Times, Brin said that Google's decision to route its Chinese-language search engine via Google Hong Kong to circumvent censorship rules had not come at the behest of the US government. "This has all been up to Google," he said.
Brin, who lived in the Soviet Union until the age of six, also said his experience of living under a repressive regime with limited political freedom had affected both his own outlook and that of Google.
"It has definitely shaped my views, and some of my company's views," he said.
“Our objection is to those forces of totalitarianism [in China],” he said, adding that he hoped Google's decision not to bow to the Chinese government's censorship demands would help stimulate "progress" towards a "more open internet" in China.
Google has been able to take advantage of the fact that the Chinese authorities do not censor web searches in Hong Kong as they do in mainland China.
It means that by redirecting Google's Chinese website via Hong Kong, China's citizens are able to get unfiltered access to the internet.
Google said the move was "entirely legal" and would "meaningfully increase" access to information for people in China.
"We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could, at any time, block access to our services," said Google in a statement.
Brin said the hacking attempts on its networks earlier this year, which had seen the Gmail accounts of political activists compromised, were "deeply troubling".
But he praised the Chinese government for becoming a key economic power, and for "lifting so many people out of poverty".
However, analysts believe Google's decision to effectively shutdown its Chinese language search service could have a detrimental impact on web development in the region, leaving the way clear for local rivals to cement their position within the domestic search space.
Baidu, a Chinese search engine, had a 58.4pc share of the market at the end of last year compared to Google's 35.6pc share, according to Analysys International.
Some analysts also said that despite Google China's servers routing queries via Hong Kong, Chinese users were still seeing censored search results filtered through China's so-called "Great Firewall".
"There actually isn't that big a difference in terms of getting information," Shaun Rein, managing director of Shanghai-based China Market Research Group, told AFP. "When [Chinese web users] click on those sensitive links, it hits the firewall."