Google says may pull out of China after Web attacks

A model demonstrates a Nexus One smartphone at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California January 5, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc is considering shutting down its China operations and website after hackers in China coordinated a “highly sophisticated” cyber-attack on the Internet search giant in December and targeted at least a score of other major corporations, it said on Tuesday.

Google said the hackers had tried to access the Gmail email accounts of Chinese human rights activists, but only managed to access two unidentified accounts, and then only headlines and other data such as when an account was created.

It did not say what information the hackers tried to access from the other corporations, nor which they were. Google said it was working with the U.S. authorities

“We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all,” Google said in a statement.

“We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.”

Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and Edwin Chan; Editing by Peter Henderson, Gary Hill