I think it's appropriate to suggest that today is a momentous day in the history of ethics and technology: Google has announced that it will cease censoring search results on the China-based version of its search engine, google.cn.

This laudable action is in response to the continued restriction of speech and expression and violation of human rights in China. Google is also royally cranky with the Chinese government for its state-sponsored cyber attacks on Google's infrastructure, and has gone public with its accusations (and proof thereof).

If talks with the Chinese government break down and Google is unable to find a way to provide uncensored search results that satisfies Chinese law, it plans to pull google.cn entirely, and is even threatening to close down its offices in Shanghai and send its expatriates home. There's no mention of what'll happen to its Chinese employees, but presumably they'll be shot by their government before long anyway :p

Given that a company the size of Google wouldn't make a move like this unless there was a very, very good reason, it suggests that Google expects the Chinese authorities to continue with their under-handed activities - and reading between the lines, this suggests that it expects to lose at least nearly the amount of revenue as a result of said activities than it stands to gain by remaining in the market.

In other words, Google is the first corporate giant to publicly (if implicitly) declare that it can't do business with China.

Make no bones about it: this decision will hurt Google's bottom line in the short-to-medium term. There'll be rousing cheers across most of the civilized world, but its revenue will drop, and worse, its potential revenue will drop to zero if it leaves the Chinese market altogether.

This decision is a brave one and should be applauded.