Google is pushing the Obama administration to go to the World Trade Organization and say that China’s policy of internet censorship violates global trade treaties.
The strict grounds for the claim is, according to Nicole Wong, general counsel to Google, that using censorship “in a manner that favors domestic internet companies goes against basic international trade principles.
It’s unlikely that this case, if brought to the WTO, would be resolved in Google’s favor or at all quickly. Disputes can take two years of arduous litigation to resolve.
But that could be exactly what Google wants. After all, this would further put China’s internet censorship policy into the public spotlight. So even if the country isn’t hit with a trade violation, the rest of the world population would still be reminded for an extended period of time of China’s stance on free speech and what internet censorship entails.
One question to ask is why Google is doing this. It’s nice to think that Google just wants to leverage its position to increase civil liberties, but one has to remember that Google is also a business with a financial duty to its shareholders. With that in mind, however, things could be as simple as they seem: Google may want to defeat Chinese censorship because it believes that to be its biggest barrier to expansion in China (right now, Baidu is the biggest search engine in China, not Google).