Google Bows Down to the Chinese

I said fairly nice things about Google the other day, and I might have to take some of them back. While Google had balls enough to tell the US government where to stick it, they are apparantly now playing ball with China.

According to the AP, Google is cutting a deal to censor China’s 100 million Web surfers:

To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country’s government finds objectionable. Google will base its censorship decisons on guidance provided by Chinese government officials.

Although China has loosened some of its controls in recent years, some topics, such as Taiwan’s independence and 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre, remain forbidden subjects.

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.

While I certainly understand McLaughlin’s argument, I don’t agree with him. As long as standardized Internet routing practices exist, innovative methods to gain access to government blocked sites will pop up — just ask any offshore e-mail or domestic blog comment spammer.

In the meantime, let me put on my super secret NSA-proof Flash Gordon decoder ring and slip a message past Google to the Chinese: “1 kn0w n0t whot c0urse 0thers mae taik; butt as 4 m3, giv3 m3 l1bertee 0r giv3 m3 d3ath!”

5 Comments
  1. I think this can be looked at from a few sides. The first could be that they’re trying to get their foot in the door and hope that China will lighten up. The second (and probably the most likely) is that it’s getting their business into an untapped market = big money. The third could be that their really not the “don’t be evil” company they want us to think they are and really want to rule the world.

    Anyway, there’s a bit of a libertarian conundrum here where I clearly don’t want them to tread on people’s rights, but I don’t want to block their right to do business how they see fit. In the end I think China is moving in the right direction and it’s only a matter of time before their social controls break down due to their capitalist desires.

  2. Well, from the story on NPR this morning, it sounds as though the Google version of self-censorship is handled as well as could be expected. They are noting when a site is blocked, so the user knows that the censorship exists. That’s something.

    Really, it’s to be expected from a public company. The shareholders may prefer that Google not be evil, but they prefer high earnings and stock price more…

  3. I saw the conundrum, and that is why I went pretty light on Google, while still voicing disapproval. My mechansism of jumping past those debates was to try to offer a thrid possibility, which is that technological innovation could have probably solved the problem.

  4. Here’s a Reuters article about it:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060125/bs_nm/google_brin_interview_dc;_ylt=Aijx18ZlhZI21iFU1tRZlMZ34T0D;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA–

    A couple interesting quotes:
    Sergey Brin-

    I didn’t think I would come to this conclusion — but eventually I came to the conclusion that more information is better, even if it is not as full as we would like to see

    John Palfrey, author of a study on Chinese Internet censorship and a law professor at Harvard Law School:

    There is no question. Google would tell you that going into China is about making money, not bringing democracy