Washington (CNN) -- The United States plans to express formal concern to the Chinese government soon after Google said a cyber attack from China targeted human rights activists.
The attack prompted Google to threaten to close its Chinese site. It also led Google to stop limiting search results in China, which let users access information about topics that are sensitive to the Chinese government, such as the crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989. However, censorship of Google results quickly re-appeared.
The U.S. government plans to issue a demarche -- a formal diplomatic message - conveying concern to the Chinese government, probably one day early this week, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
"It will express our concern for this incident and request information from China as to an explanation of how it happened and what they plan to do about it," he told reporters Friday.
Google said last week that a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack" from China targeted it and the e-mail accounts of at least 20 others, evidently to access the e-mail accounts of human rights activists in the United States, Europe and China.
The attackers routinely gained access to the e-mail accounts of dozens of activists, according to a statement from David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer for Google.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it supports the development of the Internet "according to the law" and that its measures are in line with international practices.
"I stress that China's Internet is open," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. "The Chinese government works hard to encourage the healthy development and expansion of the Internet, and works to create a favorable environment for that."
She said Google's claims "raised very serious concerns and questions."
Since Google started operating in China in 2006, the company has censored thousands of search terms, the company acknowledges.
Last week, however, just hours after Google said it would stop limiting search results, users in China were accessing information that previously had been off limits on Google.cn, the company's Chinese search engine.
People could retrieve information about the Dalai Lama and the banned Falun Gong movement -- sensitive topics to the Chinese government. A search for "Tiananmen Square" that once would return only images of the square itself suddenly had information about the Chinese government's crackdown on pro-democracy activists in the square in 1989.
The search results were censored again within a day or so.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the United States plans to formally express concern to China because President Barack Obama believes in "the universal value of a free Internet." He said the United States has "concerns" about the Google incident.
"We need to hear now from the Chinese," he said.
This is gettin' good, y'all. I can not wait to hear China's answer to this, because if there's proof, like iDefense said it has, that it was definitely the Chinese government that hacked into Google, what are they going to do? They've publicly said hacking and cyber attacks are against their own laws, specifically in regards to this.
I also wonder why the censoring of results went back up--is it the Chinese government's doing, or did Google just stop the censoring temporarily to show that they were serious, and put it back while they wait for an Chinese response or they decide what to do in China?
NEW! Yahoo's Chinese partner just brought some!
Alibaba: Yahoo 'reckless' for backing Google
Beijing, China (FT) -- Yahoo's Chinese partner issued a scathing criticism of the US technology company at the weekend, calling it "reckless" for publicly supporting Google's threat to quit the country in protest over a wave of Chinese cyberattacks.
Alibaba Group, in which Yahoo holds a 40 per cent stake, said it had "communicated to Yahoo that Yahoo's statement that it is 'aligned' with the position Google took last week was reckless given the lack of facts in evidence. Alibaba doesn't share this view".
Yahoo had no immediate response.
Yahoo and Jack Ma, Alibaba's founder, have clashed repeatedly, with Yahoo upset that Alibaba has allowed Yahoo China to play a smaller part inside the group while its share of the Chinese search engine market dwindles. Alibaba has moved its online classified business from Yahoo China to Taobao, a rival internal property.
Google's revelation that it was no longer willing to censor search results as required by the Chinese government has turned the spotlight on other western technology companies such as Yahoo and Microsoft that do business in the world's largest internet market by user numbers.
So far no other company has followed Google's lead in threatening to pull out of the country or refusing to comply with Chinese censorship regulations.
Yahoo is believed to have also been targeted in the cyberattacks that Google says prompted its public challenge to Beijing and last week it issued a statement supporting Google's position.
"We condemn any attempts to infiltrate company networks to obtain user information," Yahoo said. "We stand aligned that these kinds of attacks are deeply disturbing and strongly believe that the violation of user privacy is something that we as internet pioneers must all oppose."
Alibaba is China's largest e-commerce company and represents Yahoo's only real presence in the country after the US company turned over its Chinese operations and paid $1bn for a 40 per cent stake in Alibaba in 2005.
Yahoo is a passive investor with only one representative on Alibaba's board of directors and no management responsibility or oversight at the company, according to Alibaba.
The decision to outsource its China business came after Yahoo was heavily criticised by human rights groups and western governments for handing over e-mail messages to the Chinese government which were used to jail human rights activists and political dissidents.
At the time, Jack Ma, Alibaba's founder, said he was willing to hand over any information requested by the Chinese government and that the company always complied with Chinese laws and regulations.
I need my popcorn now, because this is getting good. Yahoo and Alibaba have always not really seen eye-to-eye, and so now the problems are starting to show.