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Chinese media calls Google a 'political tool'

Communist party newspaper lashes out at Google's claim that China is behind Gmail phishing attacks

June 6, 2011 02:47 PM ET

Computerworld - The Chinese media lashed out at Google Monday as the Communist government today stepped up its criticism of the Internet company.

The People's Daily, a newspaper published by the Communist Party of China, ran a front-page editorial in today's overseas edition charging that Google "slandered" the country last week. In the editorial, the government denied Google's claim that it had unleashed a phishing attack on hundreds of Google Gmail users.

Headlined "Google, What Do You Want?," the editorial says that Google's claims are false and were intended to incite problems between the United States and China.

In a rough translation, the editorial contends that Google works "again and again to discredit China, and used public opinion to sing the China threat theory." The piece added that Google has become a "political tool" and has "betrayed the spirit of the Internet."

Google declined to comment on the editorial.

However, a Google spokesman said in an email to Computerworld that the company stands behind its statements about the phishing attack.

"We think users should be aware of the disturbing campaign we've uncovered to collect user passwords and monitor user email," the spokesman said. "Our focus now is on protecting our users and making sure everyone knows how to stay safe online."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said the editorial seems to be threatening Google's business in China.

"Right now it looks like China is pretty much a lost market for Google search, but China is important to Android, and Android is important to China," he added. "If China says Android is a security threat, Google loses the China market for smartphones and tablets."

But Gottheil said he thinks phone manufacturing is too important to China for the country to make such an aggressive move.

"I think this is a relatively empty threat, at least with regard to Android," he said. "Perhaps there were talks, or hopes of talks, about Google search there."

Today's editorial comes on the heels of Google's announcement last week that it had shut down a long-standing phishing attack against hundreds of its Gmail users, including U.S. military personnel, senior U.S. government officials, journalists, Chinese political activists and officials in several Asian countries.

In April, John Liu, Google's vice president for sales and operations in greater China, said Google's business in China wouldn't change after Larry Page replaced Eric Schmidt as the company's CEO.

Early last year, Google decided to go toe-to-toe with China.

Google had threatened to halt its operations in China after disclosing in January 2010 that an attack on its network from inside China was aimed at exposing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google not only stopped complying with the Chinese government's mandate to censor search results in China, but ended up pulling its search operations out China and moving them to Hong Kong.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at Twitter@sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed Gaudin RSS. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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