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Google Businesses The Internet Censorship

Why Google in China Makes Sense 362

Posted by Zonk
from the begin-arguing-in-three-two-one dept.
ctd writes "The BBC is carrying an interesting article about the positive outcomes from Google's censorship of its China site." From the article: "Millions of people may now be turning away from Google in disgust, but I've just reinstated them as the default search for my Firefox toolbar, because I think it should be supported for its brave decision. Even if the primary motivation for going into China is that it makes commercial sense for the company - as indeed it must do, since US law is quite harsh on boards that take actions which could damage shareholder value - it also makes political sense. "
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Why Google in China Makes Sense

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  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday January 27, 2006 @01:55PM (#14580493) Homepage Journal

    since US law is quite harsh on boards that take actions which could damage shareholder value - it also makes political sense.

    Shareholder's wealth is more important than human rights? I hope the author feels the same way when China is rounding up "bad thinkers" who search for the wrong things from within China. It's just a matter of time... but at least the shareholders will be happy.

    • by Ark42 (522144)
      Censorship is censorship and we're no better: http://www.google.com/search?q=xenu [google.com]
      • Um, AFAIK, google re-instated the xenu.net links shortly after they were pulled. In fact, clicking on your link shows that the first link in the list is in fact, to xenu.net...
        • by Ark42 (522144) <slashdot@@@morpheussoftware...net> on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:42PM (#14581151) Homepage
          The bottom of the page still says:

          "In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org."

          This leads me to believe there is still 1 missing result from that search, which I am not allowed to see, because of a law (DMCA) that my government has, even if it was a person or corporation which abused this law in this particular case, and not the government directly asking Google to remove the link.
    • by Secrity (742221) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:07PM (#14580648)
      In the United States shareholder value is legally paramount over any other concern. Corporate officers can be liable for monetary losses if the corporation willfully does something that does not maximize shareholder value.
    • It depends upon which view of business ethics you follow. Some of the models popularized in the 70s and beyond say that a business should be socially responsible. (Some may say this is because of an inate responsibility, others may say that it is due to the fact that being 'socially responsible" is good for shareholders and other stakeholders because it helps the bottom line) The truth is, businesses, especially publicly traded ones, have a fiduciary responsibility to make moeny for shareholders.
      I have one
    • Shareholder's wealth is more important than human rights? I hope the author feels the same way when China is rounding up "bad thinkers" who search for the wrong things from within China. It's just a matter of time... but at least the shareholders will be happy.

      I don't think the author was condoning this, just pointing out that even if Google wanted to do the right thing, they'd be sued into oblivion by their shareholders. The true evil-doers in American business, in my opinion, are the shareholders. Yes

      • The shoe also falls on the other foot. If Google so egregiously violates human rights that their company is damaged, they would be forced to not do so. All we must do is punish those businesses that trample human rights, and companies who are chasing the bottom line would cease doing so, simply because it would not be profitable. The problem with the twerps like you and me is that we do not punish these companies; we continue to buy millions of dollars of sweat-shop produced clothing and shoes, we buy billi
    • by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:17PM (#14580793) Homepage
      I'm sure the Chinese people greatly appreciate your efforts at providing them with freedom and prosperity by attempting to deny them access to Google.
    • by Infernon (460398) * <infernon@gmAAAail.com minus threevowels> on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:34PM (#14581021)
      It's a bit foolish to start going to extremes such as this. When, and if something like this happens, is it truly going to be the fault of Google?

      The author of the article makes a great point, but I'm not sure that he realizes it. Most good change does not happen with a bang, it takes time. Google's business in China is one of the parts of that slow moving process, in my opinion. It could very well happen that we're looking back on this time years later and thinking about the items that led to free speech in China.

      The point that I'm trying to make is that everything isn't necessarily what it seems on the surface.
    • by Nazmun (590998) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:43PM (#14581158) Homepage
      The way I see it... either google censors and china allows the site to go through the great firewall or the site is blocked entirely by the "People's" Republic.

      Their are only two possibilities the goverment of china will allow. A censored google or no google. I agree that googles actions are neither brave nor righteous. But they aren't evil or wrong in any case.
  • Brave decision? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday January 27, 2006 @01:56PM (#14580501)
    There are reasons to justify Google's involvement in China, but nothing would make it a "brave" one.

    What they did is to cave in to the Chinese govt.'s pressure and although that has positive aspects, like still being accessible for chinese people, the censorship still exist and that cannot be called as a brave decision.
    • by Potor (658520) <farker1@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:03PM (#14580596) Journal
      The article implies that libel laws and laws againt computer-generated child-porn are synonymous with censorship. That's crap, of course. I expect that kind of argument from a high school student, not a paid BBC commentator.
      • Besides age, what difference is there between high school students and most mass-media commentators?

        OK, besides age and our expectations...?

      • by discontinuity (792010) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:37PM (#14581058)

        The article implies that libel laws and laws againt computer-generated child-porn are synonymous with censorship. That's crap, of course.

        Yes, the author does draw a parallel, but I don't think it quite undermines his argument. He'd not saying libel/anti-child porn laws are morally equivalent to censorship. He is just pointing out that there already are websites that are filtered from general view and that we often are not aware of it. His point here is that at least in this instance Google is trying to alert users to the fact that something is being held back.

        I agree that the author's argument isn't the most compelling. I mean, who would be interested to know that child porn was omitted from their search results? Not me (especially since I can't imagine why any searches I do would return such restults!). But if something that was not in the same make-your-skin-crawl moral category as child porn was filtered from your results, you at least should know about it.

        So it's basically a curiosity-killed-the-cat argument, except in this case the author thinks curiosity comes from the users and the cat is the Chineese government. Google might be hoping that if they mention something is missing, the users will eventually demand the missing content. Whether this effect actually is significant depends on several factors, including whether the average Chineese user will be sufficiently curious about those omitted results. But, I think it is a safe bet that it's more likely to promote thinking among the average user than by not noting the omission. Google's reasoning is probably something along the lines of "if we don't do it someone else will and they might make even larger compromises that this one."

    • Re:Brave decision? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khendron (225184) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:20PM (#14580822) Homepage
      Of course it is a brave decision. Google has put its "Don't be evil" mantra on the chopping block and has left it up to the public whether or not to let the axe fall. Do you think they don't know this? Do you think they are surprised by the reaction? I don't think so.

      I have a lot of relatives who lived in apartheid South Africa. They fell into 2 distinct camps: those who would try to work with the government to influence change and those who would have nothing to do with it. Both camps were significant in the breaking up of apartheid. Google has faced the same decision in China. Should it work with the government, and perhaps get the opportunity in influence change, or should it just walk away? In this case, walking away would do nothing. Some people might be surprised to hear this, but the Internet works just fine without Google. Instead Google has taken the hard choice. They've put their cherished reputation on the line in order to be in the position to influence change.

      Maybe, and only time will tell, Google made this decision just to make a buck. But I don't think so.
      • Well, ok. You're right, in some meaning it is "brave", like maybe from a PR point. Although most people I think don't generally associate risking bad PR with being brave. Trading money for PR is a trade, a compromise, but there is nothing brave about it.

        brave adj brav.er; brav.est
        1: having courage: DAUNTLESS
        2: making a fine show: COLORFUL <brave banners flying in the wind>
        3: EXCELLENT, SPLENDID <the brave fire I soon had going --J. F. Dobie>
      • Re:Brave decision? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by floorgoblin (869743) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:54PM (#14581347)
        I agree with the poster here, Google took a risk by agreeing to work with the chinese government. Just because its only a PR issue doesn't mean its not significant, bad PR can destroy a company relatively quickly. While influencing change in China isn't something that happens quickly, Google has made a slight difference by increasing China's involvement with the West through their company. As long as China remains as isolated as they are, change will happen slowly. By opening up the exchange between China and the West, that process is sped up, if only slightly. And if Google hadn't cooperated, China wouldn't be any better or worse off anyway.
    • Re:Brave decision? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ubernostrum (219442) on Friday January 27, 2006 @03:08PM (#14581569) Homepage

      There are reasons to justify Google's involvement in China, but nothing would make it a "brave" one.

      What they did is to cave in to the Chinese govt.'s pressure and although that has positive aspects, like still being accessible for chinese people, the censorship still exist and that cannot be called as a brave decision.

      First of all, the United States, France and Germany all have laws which require Google to censor its results, and Google does censor them -- in the US, results which receive DMCA complaints have to go, and in France and Germany links about Nazis get the boot. One of the costs of doing business is following the laws of the country you're operating in, and for Google to have a presence in China they have to comply with Chinese censorship laws. Just like they already comply with American, French and German censorship laws. The question, then, is how to follow the law while doing as little as possible to help those laws which are perceived as evil.

      Now, here's somthing to consider: previously, if a Chinese citizen did a search on, say, "Tiananmen", they'd just get back whatever the Chinese government wants them to see, with results the government doesn't like removed. The average Chinese person would never know that anything fishy was going on. But now if that same Chinese citizen does the same search at the Chinese Google, they get the same result set, plus a little something extra: a message at the bottom of the page which says, in Chinese, "due to local law, regulation or policy one or more results were removed from this page". And every single Google China page links to the main google.com, which doesn't censor results.

      This is the same policy that people applauded Google for with the DMCA -- they removed the complained-about results, but added a message saying they'd been removed, and made sure you could get to information about why it was removed. With China, they remove the results Beijing doesn't want, but add a message saying they've been removed. And they make sure you know how to get to their main search page which doesn't censor anything.

      To me this is an elegant compromise with more than a hint of subversiveness in it, and I think it's easily the most moral solution to the entire problem. So I do wish people would actually take the time to research what happened and get the facts before they get up on their high horses about Google being evil.

  • by Enigma_Man (756516) on Friday January 27, 2006 @01:56PM (#14580502) Homepage

    Why'd you remove Google as your default search function? And then again why were you swayed by something that is only speculation to put it back, if you feel strongly enough about it to have removed it in the first place?

    -Jesse
  • arent we hitting the threshold of Google-in-China stories? Even Eric, Sergey and Brin might not have discussed so much.. If anyone from China wants to get uncensored results from google, please call me at 444-444-4444 (Intl rates apply, $2.99/min +taxes)
  • Filtering (Score:2, Informative)

    by joe 155 (937621)
    They made a big thing about the filtering, but when I went on google's china site and seached for tianamen square the first result i got was about the masacre and the second was from amnesty's web page... it doesn't look like they are actually filtering anything

    Also, they mentioned that google would say when it actually filtered something out, which lets people know they are doing it, witholding rights is like growing mushrooms, they both grow best in the dark
    • Re:Filtering (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rhoon (785258)
      I searched for democracy on google.cn and the first article was from wikipedia. Now I had babelfish translate the word democracy into traditional chinese and you get this interesting little tid-bit back.

      According to the local law laws and regulations and the policy, the part searches the result not to demonstrate.
  • "It is also significant because the Google page will let people know if their search results are being restricted, something that doesn't happen if the filtering is done by the government."

    That's not acceptable. People there know they are being kept in the dark. Simply telling them that they are is adding insult to injury. What a joke! On the flip side, Google and others need to be there and push the boundries. Eventually China will open up. It's just a matter of time because you can't keep a good thing li

    • "People there know they are being kept in the dark. Simply telling them that they are is adding insult to injury."

      We get this at work and I have to agree. There is nothing more irritating than going to a site to learn, "You are forbidden to access this site due to blah blah blah." Some, less computer aware folks, would panic and call the help desk to appologize and explain it was a mistake.

  • From the article: Even in the United States, where the First Amendment protects speech from government interference, service providers impose terms and conditions of use that limit what can be posted online and search engines routinely take content from their indexes if it infringes copyright or is deemed inappropriate.

    But Americans are free to change ISPs, and more importantly, Americans are free to read other people's compliants about those ISPs on the internet. Americans are also free to use anothe
    • Re:Sure... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kfg (145172)
      I really can't believe how anyone could sympathize with government sponsored censorship.

      The author clearly felt bad enough about what Google has done to stop using it.

      But then he felt bad about not being able to use Google.

      So he has concocted a rationalization that allows him to use Google without feeling bad about it and even extended it to the point where he can feel proud of himself for it.

      SOP.

      KFG
      • I love that answer! People can rationalize anything, sadly. Here's a relevant quote that I came across just yesterday.

        Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience. - Adam Smith (the father of economics)
    • You must not live in the US. If you did, you would know that most cities only have a broadband duopoly. You have a choice of getting screwed by the telco or the cable company. That's not a free choice.
  • by ChrisGilliard (913445) <christopher,gilliard&gmail,com> on Friday January 27, 2006 @01:59PM (#14580547) Homepage
    Even though they are blocking out a lot of porn and anti chinese govt. sites, the Chinese people will get to see all the articles on democracy and many other things that will educate the citizens. Thus the good outweighs the bad by a long shot. In time, the Chinese citizens will demand more freedoms, but this is a big step in the right direction in my opinion.
    • "Chinese people will get to see all the articles on democracy and many other things that will educate the citizens."

      No they won't. That's the problem.
      • Please try this search [google.cn]

        This is on China's version of google. You will see the Wikipedia entry on democracy as the first search on the list which is a very interesting read. Now try a search on Tienemen sqaure masacre. You will not find the results you expect, so they are only censoring things that put the govt. in a bad light. They don't block out things like democracy.
    • the Chinese people will get to see all the articles on democracy and many other things that will educate the citizens

      You forgot to add, "for now". How long before those also are redacted?

      The Chinese government's efforts are not static; they will cut off any site that they deem is a threat to their grip on power. So today you might be able to see those sites; but the moment the next demonstration happens, expect those sites to be gone too.

  • not quite sure... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by autopr0n (534291) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:02PM (#14580581) Homepage Journal
    as indeed it must do, since US law is quite harsh on boards that take actions which could damage shareholder value - it also makes political sense I belive google's board is somewhat protected from this, based on their bylaws.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Example: A search for falun gong on google brings up pro-government propaganda. Dissenting views are blocked.

    Google should at least block all sites for a given keyword, not present propaganda only. Have some ethics, tell them "give us a list of keywords to block" .. not "give us a list of sites you want censored". Users who serach for a keyword should get no results and a notice saying "sorry your govt. blocked it etc."

    source:
    http://googlecensorship.tripod.com/google_censors_ falun_gong_in_china/index.album [tripod.com]
    • "Google should at least block all sites for a given keyword, not present propaganda only."

      Perhaps Google's agreement with China requires Google to block only the objectionable sites and requires that Google return the propganda sites. If this is true, I am curious if there would be a side effect of Google returning more pro mainland Chinese / Chinese propganda sites to non-Chinese users.
  • by jvolk (229717) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:03PM (#14580599)
    I think not. Most people (at least Americans) don't care what Google does in China, even if they know anything at all about it. All they care about is the search results and products Google makes FOR THEM.

    Not to mention habits are hard to break, so "Googling it" is something that now comes as second nature to many people and isn't likely to change over China.
  • by pnuema (523776) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:04PM (#14580615)
    All of you "OH NOES! GOOGLE IS TEH EVIL!!!11!eleventyone" people need to re-evaluate their lives. Do you all consider yourselves evil? No? How many of you are working on systems whose parts were manufactured in China? How many of your clothes and shoes were made there? How many objects can you find within ten feet of you right this second that were made in China? You are doing business in China, by buying their goods, but you are not evil. Why are you applying a double standard to Google?
    • Because I don't walk around with a chip on my shoulder saying my motto is "Do No Evil"

      -dave
    • How many of you are working on systems whose parts were manufactured in China? How many of your clothes and shoes were made there?

      Doing business with Chinese businesses is not the same thing as supporting the government that murdered 77 million of them.

      -jcr
    • To my mind, there's a significant difference between buying a pair of Chinese-made shoelaces and offering a search engine that blocks links about Tibet and Taiwan. YMMV.
      • To my mind, there's a significant difference between buying a pair of Chinese-made shoelaces and offering a search engine that blocks links about Tibet and Taiwan. YMMV.

        You're right. The shoelaces were probably made by an underage, underpaid worker in sweatshop-like conditions. The fact that you are still willing to buy said shoelaces, knowing the conditions they were manufactured under, means that in order to compete, more Chinese companies have to abuse their workers the same way - which means in order

        • (For the sake of argument, let's pretend I don't realize that you and the "Is that how you sleep at night?" guy are both wearing head-to-toe Target and Banana Republic right now and that I'm impressed with your selfless ideological purity.)

          To my mind, and YMMV, failing to go out of my way to find socks and dental floss made to Western standards of labor law, and making my own when it turns out that such a thing no longer exists is arguably at one level of Evil. Actively pursuing a business venture to provid

      • To my mind, there's a significant difference between buying a pair of Chinese-made shoelaces and offering a search engine that blocks links about Tibet and Taiwan.

        You're splitting hairs.

        In either case you're supporting a company that's willing to do business with a totalitarian regime that surpresses free speech. And I rather doubt that their native employees are given wide lattitude either.

        Oh, and your comment about "shoelaces" is a rather odd attempt to devalue how much stuff is made in China now. Odds ar
    • What makes you think that I'm not evil?
    • by oirtemed (849229) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:24PM (#14580883)
      Its a bit harder to purchase consumer goods not made in countries like China than it is to make the choice not to do business with the Chinese govt as a billion dollar company.

      Lets see: Someone just living: little disposable income with which to fight the balance of the economy. Billion dollar company willfully choosing to participate in government censorship programs.

      I think there is a big difference. There is no double standard. Companies are not people no matter how many laws give them people like rights. Comparing a company's actions to people's everyday choices is just ridiculous. If I made a million a year, I'd be able to spend more money to aquire products from better places (voting with my money so to speak.) But you know what? You know who moved the factories there in the first place? Oh my god. I'll give you one guess cause your so smart. That's right: the companies.

      • You have just restated democarcy and "proven" it can't work. That people in mass can't make a difference and shouldn't even try.

        Comparing a company's actions to people's everyday choices is just ridiculous.

        So please tell me exactly what is the building blocks of a companys actions? people's everyday choices. As you said,a comapny is not a person - it is a group of poeple, all making everyday choices. So really,we are all powerless. Yay!
    • You are doing business in China, by buying their goods, but you are not evil. Why are you applying a double standard to Google?

      By buying Chinese goods, I'm primarily supporting the economic livelyhood of the Chinese people. Only on some small indirect level can you say I'm aiding their opressive government.

      Look at the U.S.'s embargo of Cuban goods, all that's done is impoverish the people. The communist Cuban government is still as strong as ever.

      Google, on the other hand, is directly implementing PRC's ce
  • ...is one that forsakes wealth in favor of principle.

    But then, unconditional Google apologists aren't exactly a rare breed.
  • by kwandar (733439) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:06PM (#14580638)
    Okay, now my initial knee jerk reaction is that Google shouldn't be censoring. But then I read that Google WILL NOTIFY USERS THAT THE DOCUMENT IS CENSORED.

    Its one thing where censorship is hidden, but its quite another when millions of Chinese will begin to realize how much information is being hidden from them.

    This is a good thing, and certainly not evil.
    • Maybe it's just because I can't read Chinese (okay, I don't even have the Chinese character set installed, so I just get a bunch of question marks) but I don't see anything on this page [google.cn] that looks like a "some results have been censored"-type notice. Can any Chinese-reading /.ers verify this?
  • Idiocy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:07PM (#14580641) Journal
    ...as indeed it must do, since US law is quite harsh on boards that take actions which could damage shareholder value...

    This bit of stupidity is a staple of posters here already -- it's not like you need to link to another continent for it.

    US law requires boards to operate in shareholders' interest in a broad sense, i.e. that they're not supposed to pillage the company to enrich themselves. It doesn't mean that they're required to take every short-term opportunity to grab another dollar. (How do you think they make charitable donations or provide sponsorships?)

    There is zero possibility that an any legal case could be made against the Google board if they had declined to operate in China under these restrictions.

  • Like how Google is fighting the "world's most dangerous terrorist" George Bush and the Justice Dept for access to search records.

    Yeah... real noble. Cave to the communists - stand-up to the Justice Dept. Sheesh...

  • by Dekortage (697532) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:08PM (#14580662) Homepage

    Millions of people may now be turning away from Google in disgust....

    Who are they turning to? Haven't ALL the major search engines "caved in" (e.g. MSN [com.com], Yahoo [com.com]) to the Chinese Government's pressures? The open source answer should be something like: "You don't like it? Build your own search engine, then!"

  • I don't see why this has become such a publicized event. MSN and Yahoo have been in China already -- with the same censorship rules. In fact, to enforce the giant firewall, many other North American firms provide the required technology, including Nortel.

    Don't forget about the thousands of companies that use factories in China to produce, what seems like 90% of the everything in the average house. Don't kid yourselves, the people working in factories making goods for HP, Apple, Nike, Nokia, et al. don'
  • Every person badmouthing Google is a hypocrit. Every single one of you support the Chinese government. Your keyboard, your monitor, your desk. That chair, your clothes, your TV, all those toys you bought for your nephew. Every time you buy an item that has a Made in China label is you are supporting the oppression of the people. Google is one upping all of us.

    Not only are they providing the Chinese people will a powerful tool for finding most of the worlds information but they are also letting the Chin
    • Every time you buy an item that has a Made in China label is you are supporting the oppression of the people.

      Nonsense. A country and its government are not the same thing, and trading with Chinese people has nothing to do with supporting the government that opresses them.

      -jcr
  • Just for kicks, I just did a search [google.cn] on www.google.cn for "Falun Gong Chinese Revolution Tianamen Square Freedom of China Anti-Communism"
    and the first result was a pdf (html here) called Internet Filtering in China 2004-2005: A Country Study [216.239.51.104]

    Similar searches just directed me to Wikipedia. [wikipedia.org]
  • I think that Google is leaving the door ajar for political dissenters this way. Google will say HOW and WHERE they're censored, in other words: "I didn't censor OTHER ways of communication, wink wink, nudge nudge".

    Double speech and steganography cannot be censored by Google, so the dissenters will have the option to communicate thru this. After all, why should google have to censor "Our trip to the lake" photo album? :)

  • spin (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashdotnickname (882178) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:12PM (#14580711)
    This story has been spinned in so many directions that I'm getting dizzy.

    But, whatever colored glasses you choose to wear, a few facts remain undisputable...

    1) Chinese government actively censors certain information from its people
    2) Google wants to do business in China
    3) At China's demand, Google censors certain information from it's google.cn search replies
    4) Once, on Google's FAQ page, a few statements existed regarding the company's belief in a democratic and uncensored distribution of information... those statements have been removed recently.

    Whether someone is wrong or right in all this depends (partly) on how you rate the importance/goodness of some of these facts in relation to each other.
    • by jcr (53032)
      1) Chinese government actively censors certain information from its people

      Of course it does. If the Chinese people knew that the communists have killed more of them than the Japanese, they'd be toppled in a week.

      -jcr

  • ahhh (Score:3, Funny)

    by revery (456516) <charles AT cac2 DOT net> on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:16PM (#14580779) Homepage
    Ah, but how do we know this is in fact the actual text of the article and not some Chinese-Google modified version of the story being served from a top secret server farm in Beijing. Hmmm?!?! Who is this Bill Thompson? We don't know. I've never met him. Maybe he should come to my house and prove he's a loyal American... or Britain... or Englishman... He might be a robot or Chinese, or worse... a Chinese World of Warcraft robot gold farmer. Well he won't fool me!!

    I think I'll be spending the rest of the century in my tin-foil lined saferoom playing WOW and asking people to type several pages of flawless grammar before they join my group.

    Take that China. Take that Sergey Brin. Take that robots.

    I've forgotten my point.

  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:17PM (#14580797)
    Okay, so the results on google.cn are limited, but . . .

    It's generally agreed that free information flow and communication are two of the best tools a population can have to use against a totalitarian or dictatorial government. Okay, so google.cn is limiting the flow of information, but that flow is still greater than it would be if google.cn didn't exist.

    Think of it this way - the first couple of cracks in a dam don't look too threatening when they are small and just forming. Think of google's presence in China as the harbinger of greater information flow to come. Intelligent and quick-witted people will use this limited tool to find ways to ultimately have a tool which is less limited, less restricted.

    I'm not saying that (GOOGLE.CN)==(FREEDOM FOR CHINA), only that IMHO this is a step in the right direction. If that step is hobbled, it is nonetheless progress toward a desirable end. Also, let's not upbraid Google too harshly for functioning to the best of their abilities despite obstacles imposed by a sovereign state in which they wish to do business; rather we should applaud their effort to expand their business model and all that goes with it into an undeniably hostile environment. That their motives are not so lofty as the furtherance of human rights and personal freedom is irrelevant: that their actions might lead to the furtherance of human rights and personal freedom seems more important to me here.

  • The best thing is for Google to comply with the censorship, get everyone used to using it (like the rest of the world), then stop complying. The government would be forced to either give up on censorship or tell all their citizens that the Google which they have all grown accustomed to (which they surely will) is no longer allowed. What better way to make the Chinese people painfully aware of what their government is doing? I think if the US government were to suddenly decide to censor Google it would have
    • "Getting and then losing Google could be a catalyst for change over there..."

      You do realize we're talking about a single search engine company, right?
      • Yes, a single search engine which people seem to favor over all the others and quickly grow accustomed to using on a daily basis. We've made a friggin' verb out of it, fer chrissakes. Do you think Google's arrival in China will have any less of an impact on their culture than it did on ours? Something whose existence makes such a heavy impact will be missed greatly if suddenly banned.
    • The best thing is for Google to comply with the censorship, get everyone used to using it (like the rest of the world), then stop complying.

      If that turns out to be their plan, then I will of course forgive them for what they're doing. From where I sit today however, it sure looks to me like they're an accessory to genocide.

      -jcr
  • by EaglesNest (524150) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:20PM (#14580827)
    The stub on theis article is WRONG. The "Business Judgment Rule" protects any decision that a corporation's board makes, no matter how silly it seems. In this case, Google's hypothetical decision to stay out of China would be protected. Nothing in U.S. law is forcing Google into China.

    The "Business Judgment Rule" protects any decision that a corporation's board makes as long as they [1] deliberate with knowledge about the decision (i.e., they must be informed); and [2] don't have any conflicts of interest (i.e., sign a contract with the Board's president's son-in-law).

    [Furthermore, the Board didn't necessary approve or disapprove of this decision. It might have just been management. They can pretty much do anything they want. When "concerned shareholders" such their own corporation, they usually sue the Board rather than only management.]

  • I don't see why anyone would be upset with Google for censoring results for China. If they didn't, then the Chinese government would probably block Google entirely. So you people would rather the Chinese not be able to use google at all? Use your heads. Google did the right thing.
  • ...to come up with justifications for a course of action that would vastly enrich you. All you have to mutter are the magic words, "maximize shareholder profit". IBM made the similar arguments working for Nazi Germany, and pointed out they made plenty of contributions to the Allies as well. Scientists throughout both world wars on all sides justified their work on war weaponry (poison gas, atomic weapons, incendiary bombs, etc.) in terms of, "if it shortens the war, less people will die, so this is good.
  • The authoritarian regime of China or Google?

    Google gets its foot in the door and access to a lot of the information they want to crawl and index. Mao called it "sugar coated bullets", but was referring to Disney, Coca Cola and the rest of the Western "influences" and not necessarily Google.

    Can China survive under the current repressive regime, or will the eventually change to something more open? When they do change, who is going to be there to give them a hand (or more accurately, a connection to the out
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:40PM (#14581097) Homepage
    Google's censorship might be illegal under US anti-boycott laws [doc.gov]. The US has a law intended to keep US companies from cooperating with the Arab League's boycott of Israel. That's been in place for years, and is enforced by the US Department of Commerce.

    But the law isn't Israel-specific. It prohibits US persons or entities from complying with "unsanctioned foreign boycotts". It also prohibits any US person or entity from discriminating "against any corporation or other organization which is a United States person on the basis of the race, religion, sex, or national origin of any owner, officer, director, or employee of such corporation or organization".

    So for Google's China unit to exclude the US branches of Falun Gong (a religious organization) or US branches of Taiwanese political groups (national origin discrimination) from their index seems to be a violation of US export regulations under 15 CFR 160.1.

    Working through a foreign subsidiary doesn't get around these rules. That loophole has been plugged very thoroughly.

    This could be a real problem for Google.

  • I'd rather Google.cn censor its results than pretend that such results do not exist. Rather than suppress results, it should present them in redacted form, with black rescaled 1x1 GIFs in place of the text, so that it becomes very clear to those using it that their search is being censored, that there are other results but that your government has decided you don't need to know them. Making it clear the results are censored like this reduces the evil quotient.

    No, I'm not talking about covering the results
  • by Magnifico (30966) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:43PM (#14581164) Homepage

    In Beijing, the capital of the People's Republic of China, between April 15 and June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square was a site of student protests. The students were protesting communist party/government corruption and economic instability. It was violently suppressed by the government.

    I think the difference between an image search google.com and google.cn speak for itself:

  • by MythMoth (73648) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:46PM (#14581215) Homepage
    Google's motto is "Do no evil". I would interpret this much as promising that they will do no harm, not that they will right all wrongs. Much as a medical doctor under the Hippocratic Oath [wikipedia.org] promises not to harm patients, rather than promising to cure all their ills.

    Given a choice between a (legally constrained) presence in China and no presence whatsoever, it is less than clear to me that they are "doing evil" by remaining. Perhaps you think that they are doing harm by doing business under a repressive regime, but I would have to respectfully disagree there.

    Since they are acting only to censor themselves (a distinction beyond the wit of one BBC Radio 4 listener who called an afternoon news programme to ask why they couldn't censor sexually oriented websites while they're at it) I fail to see the hypocrisy in their actions.
  • Contradictory? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Quixote (154172) * on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:48PM (#14581246) Homepage Journal
    From Google's "Ten Things" [google.com] page:
    Placement in search results is never sold to anyone.

    So how can Google explain the different ordering of results for Google China? Hasn't it "sold" the placement of results to the Chinese Government??

  • by metamatic (202216) on Friday January 27, 2006 @02:50PM (#14581278) Homepage Journal
    Did the BBC come out in favor of companies doing business in apartheid South Africa? The arguments there were exactly the same.
  • Hypocrisy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Goner (5704) <nutate AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday January 27, 2006 @04:54PM (#14582830) Homepage
    I'm definitely not a fan of the Chinese government, but I see trade deals that the U.S. gov't makes with China as far more harmful in terms social damage. Having google.cn only increases the chance that the growing number of urban Chinese will get a chance to see how crappy the web is. It also increases the chance that those inclined will explore things like tor, i2p, freenet, and more that I don't know about and implement them to circumvent the censorship.

    Finally, getting back to the subject of the post, I would call it hypocritical of those of us represented by the U.S. and the DMCA to go on about how bad censorship is. Same with Germany. Google and everyone else in the search business conforms to those weird laws. Those governments don't specifically censor things that would lead to change in government, but they certainly censor things that would lead to a revolutionary change in government.

    I do not want a revolution/civil war breaking out where I live (or anywhere, 'can't we all just get along'), but restricting access to information makes those who want to find such info feel persecuted and starts a cycle of self fulfillment.

    Also, as an interesting side note, google.com.tw and google.com.hk are still up in classical chinese hardly a total kowtow. In fact one could just look at this as a default domain for simplified chinese, with extra censory perception.
  • by Skinny Rav (181822) on Friday January 27, 2006 @05:38PM (#14583341)
    I am late for this discussion, so my post will probably be lost in the crowd...

    Anyway, I remember Solidarity movement in Poland - one of its main successes was to have all censorship in newspapers marked with something like "removed in line with blahblah Act". In fact it became a kind of national sport to read newspapers and guess what was removed. Sometimes something like half of the article was cut - which was even more interesting. "Wow - there must be something really interesting about this subject" - that's what everybody thought seeing such censored removals.

    It is the same here: it is a big difference if you put "Tiananmen" into a search box and get only results like "city guided tours" or pages of travel agencies or if you get these along with "some results to your query have been removed to comply with Chinese regulations".

    An example: you hear a rumour, that something is going on in some city. You put the name of this city into google.cn and get this anouncement that some results were removed - bang! and you have confirmation that something important is going on.

    As they say it "it is not true until they deny it". In this case: it is not important/dissident/interesting unless they censor it.

    Cheers

    Raf
  • by cinnamon colbert (732724) on Friday January 27, 2006 @09:00PM (#14585147) Journal
    Jobs and Gates are humanitarian only if they pay their workers decent wages; no amount of charity can make up for injustice

    At one point, Mr Rockefeller was the most hated man in america; he hired one of hte first pr people, and for a few hundred million, became loved and admired..who says the american public is neither cheap nor easy ?

    One of the popes was being shown around the vatican after his installation, and the pontiff asked a gardener how thing wer going
    Not to well theman answered; my wages are so low, I can't afford to feed my family.

    When the bishops protested that charity would suffer if the pope increased wages, he replied, Justice comes before charity.

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