Internet search firm Google has begun talks with the Chinese government about plans to stop censoring search results after the company was targeted by cyber attacks traced to China.
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The company has revealed that its internal systems were broken into by hackers looking for information about human rights activists who subscribe to Google's free e-mail service.
Google has threatened to pull out of the country if it is unable to reach an agreement with Chinese authorities to continue operations in the country without censorship.
Since its inception in 2006, Google's service in China has filtered search results to comply with the Chinese government's rules that restrict access to "inappropriate" information.
Google has announced that as discussions with the Chinese authorities continue, its Google.cn Chinese-language site is still operating in compliance with local regulations, according to Bloomberg.
Analysts predict Google could shut down operations as soon as February if the company fails to reach an agreement over censorship soon.
But that will effectively exclude Google from the world's biggest internet market, which is expected to grow to 840 million users by 2013.
Chinese search engine Baidu, which already has 60% of the local search business, is expected to take over most of Google's business if it is forced to pull out of China.