U.S. search engine giant Google says it will no longer censor its search results and may end its operations in China after uncovering a massive cyber attack on e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
In an online posting Tuesday, Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said the company had discovered a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack" aimed at its corporate infrastructure originating from China.
Drummond said the primary goal of the attack was to access the Google e-mail accounts (Gmail) of Chinese human rights activists. He said the company believes the attackers were unsuccessful except for two accounts which appear to have been accessed.
Drummond said that because of the attacks and further limits on free speech on the Web, Google will no longer censor its search results on its Chinese search engine, Google.cn. He said the decision may lead Google to completely shut down its offices in China.
The announcement signals a major shift by Google, which previously has abided by Chinese laws that require some politically and socially sensitive issues to be blocked from Google search results.
Drummond said Google was not alone in being attacked, adding that at least 20 other large companies in Internet, finance, media and chemical sectors have been similarly targeted.
In addition, he said Google had uncovered evidence during its investigation that the Gmail accounts of several other U.S. and Europe-based users who advocate for human rights in China have been accessed.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.