Google looks to be in hot water again. Just days after the China Written Works Copyright Society alleged that Google’s Book Search project was stealing the property of Chinese writers (coming from an industry that has a major problem with plagiarism), the People’s Daily is now claiming that the search engine is blocking access to its books section as "malicious revenge" for covering the matter. According to the paper, when its books section was accessed via Google, a warning would appear saying the site might contain viruses and malicious software that could harm a user’s computer. Google said that there is no way that it could have put that warning on the website as the warning is automatically generated by a component provided by StopBadware.org, an anti-malware industry organization of which Google is a member.
Combine these latest accusations with past claims of Google causing trouble in China, including one from CCTV alleging that Google helped to facilitate searches for pornography (made by a CCTV intern in a "man on the street" interview), it’s really starting to look like Google is a target of Beijing’s hostility. To block the People’s Daily coverage of its Book Search project is not beneficial to Google – when it comes to search rankings, there really is no such thing as bad publicity – and the Chinese internet is famous for its security problems. But it doesn’t seem to matter to those making the complaints.
But the technical details don’t really matter in the end. The People’s Daily saying it is being maliciously attacked by Google; it draws the same reaction as saying "it hurt the feelings of the Chinese people." Nationalists inside China get up in arms and boycott Google, which they probably don’t use anyway, and Google slips a little farther down the search engine rankings while Baidu, China’s home-grown champion, climbs that little bit higher in the rankings – thanks both to policy protection and its much lower standards when it comes to protecting copyright of any kind. And if Google enhances its copyright protection of Chinese authors online works, it will be a small oasis of intellectual property rights in a pirate-infested sea. In a country where the first day of class in college is spent taking textbooks is state media really that concerned about protecting copyright? If there really is a conspiracy, it’s a conspiracy to drive Google out of China to protect Baidu, but that would be bad news for Chinese content creators.