Google without deadline to end censorship in China

A Google executive told lawmakers on Tuesday that the company has not yet set a deadline by which it will stop censoring search results in China.

Google first announced its seminal policy change in January, following news that a massive cyberattack on the search engine giant and a handful of other companies originated in the country. But Google Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Nicole Wong told a Senate hearing early Tuesday that her company does not yet "have a specific timetable" for its new protocol.

"Having said that, we are firm in our decision that we will not censor our search results in China," she promptly stressed.

Wong's lack of specificity is sure to upset China's biggest critics, not to mention Internet freedom's most vocal advocates. Both groups have pressed Google to abandon its censorship efforts for years now -- long before security experts discovered a January cyberattack in part targeted human rights activists using Google's Gmail network.

However, Google has mostly dismissed those criticisms, stressing even its limited presence in China has assisted the cause of Web openness. Wong, specifically, said Tuesday that Google had censored only limited content in the most transparent way possible -- telling users what had been removed, and sometimes why.

But it is unclear when that much-debated policy may end. According to Wong, part of the delay stems from Google belief that the policy change is as much of a "human" issue as it is a political consequence.

"We have many employees on the ground... so we recognize both the seriousness and the sensitivity of the decision we are making, and we want to figure out how to get to that end... in a way that is appropriate and responsible," she told lawmakers.