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Google.cn Added ICP License Number on Monday

Rebecca MacKinnon

Google.cn landing page has added an ICP license number dated 2010 (click to enlarge)Beijing News is reporting (in Chinese) that one of their reporters noticed on Monday that the Google.cn landing page has added an ICP license number dated 2010. The license number had not been there before. The reporter then confirmed with Wang Jinhong, director of public relations for Google China, that the license number had been newly added. Three other links to "Music," "Translate," and "Shopping" were also added. The report did not clarify whether the addition of the ICP license means that the Chinese authorities have renewed Google.cn's ICP license after Google announced on June 28th that it has changed the way in which users are re-directed from Google.cn to Google.com.hk.

The article reports that Google's current ICP license, issued in June 2007, is valid for five years but requires annual review. It was issued to the joint venture company jointly owned by Google and the Beijing Gu Xiang Information Technology Co. Ltd.

I've put in a query to people I know at Google but today is a national holiday in the United States. It's possible we may see some clarification on the Official Google Blog on Tuesday morning California time, or maybe journalists' queries will get answered in the coming hours and the reports will start to appear.

Veteran China Internet watchers may recall that Google launched Google.cn in January 2006 without an ICP license. It is my understanding that the Google-Gu Xiang joint venture was set up for the sole purpose of obtaining an ICP license. It is also my understanding that R&D and advertising operations technically operate through different companies.

If anybody has additional information or rumors they'd like to share, please feel free.

Update: Gizmodo has more speculation here: Have Google And China Resolved Their Issues?

Further Note: It's very possible this is a total false alarm, that no decision has yet been made, and that Google is just making their new landing page as official and legal as possible, in hopes that the decision will eventually be in their favor and perhaps also to re-assure confused users that the page is legit and not fake. It's also worth pointing out that - given that Google launched Google.cn without any ICP license at all and operated for a long time without one initially, it's very possible that the authorities could take weeks before any decision gets made. Who knows.

UPDATE 2: Google P.R. has issued a statement: "what you are seeing on the landing page is just our existing ICP license number at the bottom of the landing page. We have no news to report on our side and are still waiting to hear from the government."

By Rebecca MacKinnon, Journalist and activist; Co-founder, Global Voices Online
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