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       Tuesday, January 24, 2006

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Google Capitulates to China

The motto of the Google folks is "Don't be evil", and they certainly set a high bar in their Code of Conduct. But does capitulating to a communist government that doesn't want inconvenient facts to be known by its citizens fit in that code?
Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to roll out a new version of its search engine bearing China's Web suffix ".cn," on Wednesday. A Chinese-language version of Google's search engine has previously been available through the company's dot-com address in the United States.

By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world's most populous country.

Because of government barriers set up to suppress information, Google's China users previously have been blocked from using the search engine or encountered lengthy delays in response time.

The service troubles have frustrated many Chinese users, hobbling Google's efforts to expand its market share in a country that expected to emerge as an Internet gold mine over the next decade.

Now, this isn't a First Amendment issue (which only applies to the US federal government) and Google is free to conduct its business any way it sees fit. I have no issue with that. I'm just noticing the apparent disconnect between its motto and its actions.
Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted "don't be evil" as a motto. But management believes it's a worthwhile sacrifice.

"We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel.

Google's decision rankled Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog group that has sharply criticized Internet companies including Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.'s for submitting to China's censorship regime.

"This is a real shame," said Julien Pain, head of Reporters Without Borders' Internet desk. "When a search engine collaborates with the government like this, it makes it much easier for the Chinese government to control what is being said on the Internet."

Does filtering search results rise to the level of being truly "evil". No, not really. But it does make it complicit in doing a disservice to Chinese users who want to learn about what freedom really means. It may not be "evil", but I don't know how "good" it is. Google does filter things in other countries, like some Nazi references in Germany and France, but I think this is a bit different.

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.

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posted by Doug at 6:21 PM  


daveinchina said...

I've been living and blogging from China for the last 18 months. If any place in the world needs easy access to information it is China.

I urge everyone to stop using google and google products.

Google Bad.

6:58 PM  
Darnell Clayton said...

Dude, this is old news (why is it even here?)

Google exactly doesn't even have a choice in the matter. I've talked with some friends in China, and basically if the government blocks a link it doesn't matter if Google shows it or not--it won't work.

Google removed them in order to not frustrate users, and as far as censorship goes they seem to be a lot more open than say Yahoo (who betrayed a reporters ID) and Microsoft (who censors their blogs).

9:34 PM  

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