Google, China And Murky Waters

At the risk of trudging into the murky and sticky waters of politics, somebody help me understand this: Google agrees to censor certain content on their new China service but refuses to cooperate with the U.S. government on turning over search histories.
Mind you, I don’t even want to get into the merits of the U.S. government’s request. I know too little about it. It’s just sort of curious to see obviously different standards applied. The cynic in me says that the China decision is about money and the U.S. decision isn’t.
Regardless, the cynic in me uses Google all day long and doesn’t want my search patterns passed along to the authorities. Then again, the cynic in me isn’t in China…

6 Comments Google, China And Murky Waters

  1. James

    First of all, ALL search enginees censor info in China and Google was the last holdout. Secondly, you can’t compare what companies do in the US and in China. Each country has a specific set of laws and regulations that must be followed — what’s legal in the US might not be legal in China.

  2. John Dowdell

    Me, I’m getting more and more curious whether some of these campaigns are astroturfed… manipulating shareholder pressure via western media does offer economic incentives to various parties, even though the existence of motive alone means little.
    Hard for me to tell from here, all I know is that the reporting patterns and the underlying facts don’t seem to fit together somehow….

  3. billg

    The obvious difference is that, in the case of the U.S., Google is not engaged in censoring. It is refusing to turn over aggregate data about its customers to the feds. In the China case, it is avoiding the loss of a huge market by choosing from a set of ugly alternatives. If a search engines does not cooperate with the Chinese government’s demands to censor the results returned to their citizens, then the Chinese will either do the censoring themselves or block visibility of the search engine within China.
    It is romantic to imagine Google taking on the dictatorship in Beijing. But, the reality is that they’d lose. Is some Google better than no Google? I don’t know, but, in the long run, I suspect the interests of the Chinese people are better served by a self-censored Google than by a domestic search engine. Google employees won’t go to Chinese prisons if they annoy the regime, but Chinese search engine employees will.

  4. Steve Ray

    Google has a lot more to gain from the relationship than China does. You can’t jeopardize the company’s present and future role in that huge market by taking a stand against censorship at this point. Revisit it later, if the opportunity presents itself.

  5. Rich Ziade

    Good points.
    In the end, Google is a business. They’re under no obligation to live by some outside ethical standard. Though the “Do No Evil” silliniess is looking all the more sillier these days.

  6. Shawn

    Yes Google is going in a wrong path by being greedy wanting only to make money by using undemocratic policies and playing by the rules of one of the most oppressive and dictatorial regimes in the world namely the Chinese Communist Party.
    Google is hereby throwing it’s previous democracy oriented policies out of the window and only wants wealth and profit at all cost. This will increase the in inaccurate, one sided view that people in China have of the world because they can only see information about the world that the Chinese Communist Party wants them to see.
    Which could result in very dangerous situations in the future by not being able to see the world from different perspectives.


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