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Google, China define positions over censorship

Few will be surprised to hear that China has reiterated its belief that Web sites should adhere to government oversight, and that Google no longer wants to play ball.

Google and China staked out their positions Thursday in their dispute over censorship and search engines, with no surprises.

Hours after the Chinese government officials reminded Internet companies they have to follow Chinese law, Google reiterated its position that "we will be discussing with the Chinese authorities the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all," according to a statement. Based on additional comments made by Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, that doesn't seem possible.

"Web sites must properly undertake their social responsibility to further strengthen the network security work, and consciously accept the supervision and guidance of government departments, improve internal information security management system, and consciously accept the public supervision," Wang said, according to a Google Translation of remarks posted to the State Council Information Office's Web site Thursday.

Google and China are expected to enter into discussions about the feasibility of an uncensored search engine over the next several weeks, but few observers believe Google will be allowed to operate such a site. Google China employees have been placed on an indefinite holiday as they await the outcome of the discussions, according to TechCrunch, which could see Google exiting China if no resolution can be reached.

UPDATED 12:45 p.m.: The White House declared its support for Google's stance on censorship in China in a press briefing Thursday, according to Marketwatch. Administration spokesman Robert Gibbs was quoted as saying that President Obama believes "our concern is with actions that threaten the universal rights of a free Internet."