China’s War on Google Stemmed in Part From Leader Googling Himself

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Not an actual reenactment of this event. Photo: iStockphoto

According to a cable released by WikiLeaks, a well-placed source at the American Embassy spotted Chinese officials Googling themselves, which may have helped lead to China's demands that Google heavily censor its search results. Li Changchun, in particular — a member of China’s top ruling body, the Politburo Committee and the country’s senior propaganda official — was "taken aback to discover that he could conduct Chinese-language searches on Google," reports the Times, and especially when he found “results critical of him.” After that sting, Li allegedly directed an attack on Google’s servers in the United States and personally oversaw a campaign against Google’s operations in China.

The country's officials reportedly demanded that the search engine censor "subjects like the Dalai Lama or the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre," as well as "satellite imaging service of Chinese government facilities, warning that Washington could be held responsible if terrorists used that information," causing Google to pull its already censored version out of the country altogether. But now Li must be extra humiliated, having taken the hit of a bad Google search and then having that very Google search covered on the front page of the Times. Gasp: What if he's Googling himself right now?!

Cables Discuss Vast Hacking by a China That Fears the Web [NYT]