Andrew on Google in China
Andrew on Google in China
2006-01-29 14:44:31 by Andrew Hitchcock G+
As you may have heard, Google recently opened their Chinese search engine. In order to guarantee reliability, Google is blocking results from many websites that criticize the Chinese government. This is a pretty hot topic right now, and there are no easy answers. From what I've heard, accessing Google.com from China is pretty hit or miss, because the Chinese firewall routinely drops the connection when 'sensitive' material is returned. Currently there is a huge blogger backlash against Google. People are canceling their AdSense accounts and claiming Google has unarguably entered the domain of evil. I can't begin to guess the motives of Larry, Sergey, and Eric, but the other Googlers who I've met and talked to, or whose blogs I've read, do seem to have benevolent intentions. Here is the argument I will put forth: Google did not turn evil this week.

If you believe following unethical laws and censoring results, in order to do business in that country, is evil, then Google has been evil for years. First some background. After the horrors of WWII, some European countries felt it was necessary to block nazi and other hate material. When the internet came around, things got complicated. In 2000, there was a highly publicized case where France ordered Yahoo! to block Nazi memorabilia auctions from being accessed within France. Similarly, this page highlights examples of hate websites blocked by Google in France and Germany. As you can see, Google has been censoring European results for years. When does this get wrong? Is blocking hate speech okay, but blocking websites critical of governments not? Even in the US we have results blocked by the DMCA. I believe many bloggers are being influenced by the type of content being censored and the reason for censorship: criticizing the Chinese government is considered righteous while hate speech is despicable. If you believe in free speech, you must believe in free speech for all, no matter the content.

Some of the most vocal critics are American and European bloggers. Many have accused Google of going after the almighty dollar, and working with 'the enemy'. However, I have seen a few posts that claim to come from Chinese citizens or people who once lived in totalitarian regimes. The overwhelming opinion, from what I've seen, is that of support for Google. These people know what their government does, and they don't have any choice in the matter. They'd rather get censored results than no results at all. Google provides the best results, and it helps them in their studies. If they aren't searching for controversial topics (which would likely put them in danger anyway), the censorship doesn't affect them much. For example, I doubt many results about using Java classes are banned. The benefit to the average Chinese citizen is often overlooked, yet is perhaps the most important of all.

While Google's motto of "Do No Evil" is admirable, I believe it is impossible to follow. Ethics and morality are subjective, and as such, someone will always believe Google is doing evil. As long as freedom is being suppressed somewhere in the world, global companies must do evil (by directly or indirectly doing business with them).

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