Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Google has no license for China service: newspaper

BEIJING (Reuters) - Internet search giant Google Inc.'s controversial expansion into China now faces possible trouble with regulators after a Beijing newspaper said its new Chinese-language platform does not have a license.

The Beijing News reported on Tuesday that Google.cn, the company's recently launched service that accommodates the China's censorship demands, "has not obtained the ICP (Internet content provider) license needed to operate Internet content services in China."

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The Ministry of Information Industry, which regulates China's Internet, was "concerned" and investigating the problem, the paper said.

Google has weathered criticism from United States lawmakers, international free speech advocates and Chinese dissidents for abiding by Chinese censors' demands that searches on its new Chinese service block links about sensitive topics, such as Tibet and the 1989 anti-government protests in Tiananmen Square.

A spokesperson for Google told the paper that it shared an ICP license with another, local company, Ganji.com -- a practice followed by many international companies in China, including Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) and eBay Inc..

Usually, foreign investors in Chinese internet services must hand over operation of the service itself to a Chinese partner, with the foreign investor receiving payment for technical support.

The paper said Google.cn's operations appeared to be different and the name Ganji does not appear in reports about the U.S. company's China activities.

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