Freedom of speech & information is an essential tenet of modern democratic thought. The UN Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the general assembly in 1948 declares that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". Due to the advent of the Internet, Freedom of speech and exchange of information has transcended man made territorial boundaries.
Though most modern nations do have limited Internet censorship, China marches ahead with more than moderate censorship. As the Internet became omnipresent, Chinese citizens got access to information that empowered them. It also meant that the Chinese Government would loose the power of social control over its citizens. Therefore, the Chinese government resorted to strict policies of Internet censorship. Legislations aimed at controlling and monitoring Internet content, dubbed as "The Great firewall of China"-- by wired magazine in 1997-- restrict access to information and its exchange. According to “The Freedom on the Net 2015”, a report by Freedom House, an American pro-democracy group, China ranks last in aspects related to openness of the Internet. Common methods of Internet censorship in China include DNS Poisoning, Blocking access to IPs, Blocking VPNs, and the like.
In the year 2000, the Chinese Government initiated the “Golden Shield” project that increased surveillance on the Chinese population. The use of state-of-the-art technology meant that everything from voice calls, video chats and information sent over the Internet would be monitored by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the government of China. Projects such as "Operation Tomorrow" that are aimed at curbing youth usage of Internet cafes exemplify the extent of Internet censorship. Amnesty International notes that China "has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world".
However, even amidst the ‘Great Firewall of China’, Google, as a business, couldn’t afford to not have a presence in its rapidly growing Internet market. Google in 2006 projected that the Chinese Internet market would more than double from 105million users to 250 million users by 2010. However, it wasn’t merely a business decision for Google to establish a presence in China. Google, the worlds largest search engine, launched www.google.cn thereby becoming an official Internet Service Provider (ISP). This in-turn mandated that Google had to self-censor search results that were considered illegal. Though there isn’t a specific list of ‘banned terms’, the spectrum of content considered illegal was wide and ranged from social themes such as "pornography", to more political themes such as "Tibet". The censorship of “The Great Firewall” thrives on fear and pressure tactics.
The launch of Google in China was met with incredulity due to the dissatisfaction over the government’s Internet censorship policy. In order to get a strong foothold in the Chinese market, Google established and strengthened relationships with local Chinese firms such as China Mobile, a government owned mobile operator. What set Google apart from its competition was that when a particular search was carried out on Google.cn, a small message would appear informing the user of any results that had been censored. Though it didn’t provide specific information about such censored results, it merely informed whether censorship had occurred or not. This was an attempt by google.cn to be transparent with its users.
Merely three years later, the volatile social and political climate of China proved to be challenging for Google.cn. In 2009, the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center (CIIIRC), pulled up Google for allegedly providing search results to banned websites containing pornographic content. Towards the end of 2009, Google was also subject to corporate espionage and concentrated cyber attacks, dubbed as ‘Operation Aurora’. Google claimed that these attacks were an attempt to get information about Chinese citizens and organizations that were critical of the policies of the Chinese State. The hacks also compromised Google’s intellectual property. Despite these difficulties, Google’s market share had touched 31% by 2010.
Google was troubled by the censorship and limitations to free speech imposed by the Chinese Government’s policies and the slew of cyber-attacks faced by it. David Drummond, senior vice-president of Google, through blog articles asserted that the cyber-attacks endeavoured to access Gmail accounts of Chinese Human Rights Activists. This statement was akin to an official announcement by Google of taking a stand against the Chinese Government and shutting down its operations in China. Later, another blog article declared that Google.cn would no longer continue to censor any search results. This move was backed by the US- Government. What ensued were many rounds of talks between the two governments. In 2013, Google’s share of search engine traffic crashed to merely 2%. After the second blog article, Google officially pulled out from China and muted its services.
The acceptance of an authoritarian regime of Internet censorship was an ethical challenge for Google in China. Google compromised its values when it agreed to enter China and censor search results. Its decision to end its stint in China strengthened Google’s value for ethics & corporate responsibility. Google’s “do no evil” policy and its mission to provide reliable and complete information to its users was lauded by human rights activist and non-governmental organizations.
 Available at - https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2015
 Schrage, E., Vice President, Global Communications and Public Affairs, Google Inc., “Testimony of Google Inc. before the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations.” (February 15, 2006)