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Are Web Firms Giving in to China? 318

Posted by Zonk
from the taking-care-of-business dept.
Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "Google and other Internet companies are sending executives to Capitol Hill for a hearing next week seeking to answer the question: Are U.S. companies giving in to China's censorship demands too easily? Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House human-rights subcommittee that is holding the hearing, tells the Wall Street Journal, 'I was asked the question the other day, do U.S. corporations have the obligation to promote democracy? That's the wrong question. It would be great if they would promote democracy. But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.' The WSJ notes an irony: Google is fighting for 'Internet freedom' in the U.S., by resisting the Justice Department's request for information on user searches."
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Are Web Firms Giving in to China?

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  • money is money... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by scenestar (828656)
    China has one of the fastest growing markets

    Don't expect a company to take ethics over profits.
    • by kinzillah (662884) <douglas.price@ma ... it.edu minus bsd> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:39PM (#14695746)
      True. But wouldn't it be nice if there was a little shift from caring solely about shareholder profits and a little ethics got thrown in?
      • and it would be nice to solve end world hunger and the conflict in the middle east too.
      • Re:money is money... (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Legally corporate executives are obligated to care about shareholder profits above all else, up to the limit of what the law allows. They either do so, or are replaced, and perhaps sued if it is profitable to do so (usually not).

        Unless the law explicitly forbids an activity, you cannot expect a publicly held corporation to be moral, merely legal. Private corporations can do what they want, but usually aren't as well funded and thus influential.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Historically, until recently, stockholder profits come SECONDARY to being of the public good, and was like that from the beginning. That's something the blood profits and no ethics at all corporate shills (and government regulators) always seem to forget about. You are ALLOWED a corporate charter not only for your stinking profits, but only so long as you and your pirate gang are OF THE PUBLIC GOOD. You have no "right" to just "incorporate" then be a jerk off to everyone around you just to make money. We ne
        • True. I almost caught myself saying "Can't we just legislate morality?" but thats an even worse road to go down. Is it possible to say "You can invest in us, but we retain control over our business practices."
    • by frazzydee (731240) *
      I don't think that people are upset about this because 'a company' is doing it...IIRC all the other major search engines censor results for searches coming from China. The reason that google is being targetted is because they claim that their motto is "don't do evil." If they don't believe in that anymore, then they shouldn't still advertise it. I personally don't expect most companies to take ethics over profits; however, I expect different things from google for the simple reason that they told me I sho
    • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @04:16PM (#14695924)
      Personally I think the question is more about what the United States should do, as expecting anything of the companies themselves has proven unrealistic. They are happy to reap the benefits of freedom and democracy but will never lift a finger to protect or promote it.

      As for our government, it's ironic that we sacrifice our troops for democracy on the one hand, then sell out democracy so cheaply on the other hand when the almighty buck speaks. We are running a $201,000,000,000 [sfgate.com] annual trade deficit with China. That means every year, any disparity in world influence between the two countries decreases by twice that amount, half a trillion within the next year or two. And we rationalize it all with the notion that we'll have our cake and eat it too, that buying $30 DVD players from China is the best way to assure international goodwill and freedom for their people. When in fact the Soviet Union was defeated with precisely the opposite approach.

      • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @05:06PM (#14696168) Homepage

        When in fact the Soviet Union was defeated with precisely the opposite approach.

        No, the Soviet Union was defeated just by waiting for its massive internal corruption to catch up with it. Their poor industrial techniques meant that they simply had nothing good to offer the consumer markets of other countries, and therefore couldn't sit back and get rich in an export economy. Satter's Age of Delirium [amazon.com] is a good look at how it was a dysfunctionality internal situation that brought the country down, not external pressure from the West.

        You make it seem as if the USSR was trying to export quality materials and the US refused to import in the name of democracy, but the US really just didn't have much to do with it.

  • a moral imperative (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) * on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:38PM (#14695737) Homepage Journal
    But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.

    Sure they do, as much as any American company or person. But why should Google be singled out while 90% of my consumer goods come from China? Many of those manufacturers have willingly or unwittingly participated in things worse then censorship.
    • Many of those manufacturers have willingly or unwittingly participated in things worse then censorship.

      As have their customers, of course.

      (Nothing personal, I know for a fact some of the stuff I own was made in China, so I'm in there too)
    • ... between trading with a dictatorship and being an instrument of censorship for that dictatorship.
    • why should Google be singled out while 90% of my consumer goods come from China?

      Because Google promotes themselves as the Do no Evil company. Most other companies don't.

    • I'll bribe some king of a small pacific island to let me be his Information Minister, after that I'll send emails to internet companies, asking them to shut down blogs and reveal me personal information of their users so I can go after them.

      I'll also ask the better internet company around to use their top-notch technology and hardware to improve my censorship firewall, so I can reduce my costs, since I don't need to do it myself anymore, and improve my efficiency googol times.

      They will do that, because they
    • But why should Google be singled out while 90% of my consumer goods come from China?

      Why not? Because someone else is doing it? Is that a good reason.

      What's wrong with consumer goods that come from China? I don't see how that necessarily imprisons, oppresses or hurts anyone.
    • 'But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.'

      THAT's a good one...
      considering how many dictatorship the US has propped up in the last half centuries.

      Hot from the headline today, Rumsfeld is visiting Algeria to considering selling weapons to them.

      From the CIA World Fact book in Algeria:
      "The army placed Abdelaziz BOUTEFLIKA in the presidency in 1999 in a fraudulent election but claimed neutrality in his 2004 landslide reelection victory."
      I don't know enough to say whether Algeri
  • Just wondering... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheNoxx (412624) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:38PM (#14695739) Homepage Journal
    What's the difference between Google and Microsoft censorship in China and the sweatshops established by almost every major industrial company in the U.S.? It's okay to force starving children to work for 13 cents an hour, but taking down some democratic journalist's blog in China is not?

    What the fuck? Can we start with the worst that US companies are doing first, please?
    • Starving (Score:4, Informative)

      by XanC (644172) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @04:01PM (#14695844)
      It's that work, which is a reasonable wage there, which prevents people from starving.
      • Pardon? Are you trying to be cute?

        I can't believe I'm actually going to argue this. So, the war torn countries like Vietnam, now impregnated with unexploded ordinance and lands rendered almost unfarmable by chemical warfare (agent orange, anyone?) should be considered lucky to have to work 14 hour days every day of the week for pennies on the hour?
        And in countries where American produce and farming corporations took the land from the native people? Where are they supposed to get their food again?

        Right, I fo
        • It's the going wage in those areas. It is a living wage. It's not worse than paying people $4.50 here.

          Also, agent orange breaks down over time. The risk to the healt of the people there now is virtually nil.

          You're right about the working conditions, they're bad. It varies from plant to plant as to the actual danger, but they're all more dangerous than in the US. I don't know what to say about it other than the domestic employers don't treat their employees any better. Kinda sucks.
        • You've just proven my point. Okay, so they know how to farm. Therefore, working in an American factory for the offered wages are a better deal for them than farming. They're better off with the factory than without it. What's the problem?
          • Did you read the bloody paragraph before that? About being kicked off their land? Where exactly are they supposed to go, hmm?

            Most suitable farmland in countries where the governments allow sweatshops has been bought by large farming multinationals.

            Most communities that retain their land, that of their ancestors, such as in the deep mountains of Central and South America, aren't exactly running from the hills to get a nice job at a dangerous plant.

            I'm not sure how completely ignorant you have to be of the wo
            • If somebody else bought the farming land, then the owners decided they were better off selling. So now there's money in their pockets, and they can go to work at the factory if they want!

              You and I don't have to decide when working in a factory is better than farming; the potential workers do, and are.

              What's your solution, anyway? Do you believe in the Magic Wage Fairy? Do you want the UN to go in, guns blazing, to force all the business out of developing areas, leaving them in squalor forever?

              • No no, they did not sell their land, they were kicked off it. As in, the money goes to the government through kickbacks and the previous farmers are left homeless. And yes, in third world countries with corrupt governments, resisting gets you shot or arrested.

                I'm not sure what crippling mental disease it is that spreads like wildfire through humanity that makes them incapable of seeing the world from an honorable and moral point of view, but I suppose it's nothing new.

                And if these are such wonderful places
        • Re:Excuse me? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shelled (81123)
          Certainly they knew how to farm, but employing methods sufficient to feed a population which increased from 30 to 76 million between 1960 and 1995? The last figure I found for annual growth rate as 2.5%. Like nations before them Vietnam would seem to be transitioning from a rural to an urban culture, and as in the past there will be companies across the globe looking to make a buck from it.

          I'm the last to argue the American experience has been beneficial to the country - it's been disasterous and a stain o

    • What's the difference between Google and Microsoft censorship in China and the sweatshops established by almost every major industrial company in the U.S.? It's okay to force starving children to work for 13 cents an hour, but taking down some democratic journalist's blog in China is not?

      What the fuck? Can we start with the worst that US companies are doing first, please?


      I'm not sure how this justifies Google's/Microsoft's/Yahoo's conduct.
      • It doesn't; I was merely pointing out that Google/Microsoft/Yahoo are not likely to actually be punished or reprimanded when other U.S. corporations are allowed to conduct much worse behavior around the earth.
  • Of course they are (Score:2, Informative)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837)
    Where else in the world can capitalism legally exploit human rights for big time savings? Not only that, but all the manufacturing waste can be dumped in the river behind the factory - no EPA!! woohoo!!
  • hypocracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argoff (142580) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:39PM (#14695747)
    It seems to me that if people from foriegn lands called in death threats and bomb threats to companies like yahoo where it might not be illegal in a far away foriegn land, yahoo would be outraged and they wouldn't take that kind of threat to their security. But if they turn in people who literally get tossed in jail for 40 years for free press, then it's just business as usual - and they are acting within the laws of the countries they do business in.
  • Zyklon B (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truckaxle (883149) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:39PM (#14695750) Homepage
    At the risk of invoking the Goodwin law, isn't this issue somewhat similar to the moral and ethical considerations of manufacturing Zyklon B, knowning full well how the chemical was being used. Yahoo recently provided information that resulted in the jailing of Chinese Journalist [csmonitor.com]
    • I think it was Marx (or maybe Lenin) who said that after the revolution, the capitalists would be falling all over each other competing for the contract to supply the rope that would be used to hang them. Or words to that effect.

      That's why I don't trust conservatives waving flags: I know they'd be sucking up to their new masters in a heartbeat, while others are still fighting & dying.

      (Oops, I said "Marx". Somebody alert the DHS!)

  • by cmorriss (471077) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:40PM (#14695755)
    he WSJ notes an irony: Google is fighting for 'Internet freedom' in the U.S., by resisting the Justice Department's request for information on user searches."

    Not much of an irony when you consider that by fighting in the U.S. they're not risking losing the entire market, whereas in China, trying to fight the government can get google banned from the entire market.

    • IMO, the reason there is no irony in Google acceding to Chinese demands while fighting in U.S. Government is because China doesn't have any laws to say otherwise.

      China and the U.S. play by a different set of rules. What is okay in China is not okay in the U.S.
  • by captjc (453680) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:41PM (#14695759)
    I guess they can be called the not-so-firm web-firms
  • It's and interesting delimma, but companies are going to take China's huge market over losing out over there. Everybody needs a search engine, if Google didn't censor their searches then they'd lose a potential 1 billion customers. Same with Microsoft and their MSN blogs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:50PM (#14695793)
    As a Jew, I would like to be able to read Mein Kampf because I need to understand what hatred looks like before it comes knocking on my door. If I were in Germany or France it would be illegal, and Google would hide that information from me.

    Why is nobody complaining about how Google is giving in to censors? Because the ability to do business in France hinges on obeying the laws of the country, which means that Google wouldn't be allowed in France at all if Google did block things that were illegal there.

    Google's choice is either block what China says to block, or the Chinese get no Google at all. Should we blockade China all together like we do Cuba just because the government is repressive? Why don't we blockade France while we're at it? I doubt many Americans would object.

    Google can still be used as a tool for the social good in China, regardless of whatever specific pages are blocked, just like it is in France and Germany.

    dom
    • As a Jew, I would like to be able to read Mein Kampf because I need to understand what hatred looks like before it comes knocking on my door. If I were in Germany or France it would be illegal, and Google would hide that information from me.

      Why is nobody complaining about how Google is giving in to censors? Because the ability to do business in France hinges on obeying the laws of the country, which means that Google wouldn't be allowed in France at all if Google did block things that were illegal there.


      The
  • And, why?

    1. Because China is an enormous emerging market, with lots and lots of money tied up in it. If you don't go along to get along, your competitors will. Or the Chinese will build their own solution and they won't need you ANYWAY. Of course, if THAT happens, the Chinese people will probably be even worse off (so going along to get along is actually the lesser of two evils).

    2. Because if you don't cooperate, China *could* send scary people with guns to talk to you personally. I'm not saying they *would
    • Yeah, it's going to be great when China starts threatening Google China if if Google proper doesn't do what they want...like censoring OUR search results or tapping Google Talk and Gmail in hopes of picking up some intelligence.
      • At the point where China is stepping on U.S. interests, OUR government steps in, with their OWN scary guys with guns, o I think your argument doesn't really hold water. But as long as China is worried only about operations within China, Google is pretty much on their own. That doesn't give them a whole lot of wiggle room.

        Please be reasonable. Put yourself in their shoes. Think through all your possible actions and their possible consequences. And keep in mind that IF you were Google, you would have staff in
  • A good compromise is to extend the Sullivan Principles (SP) [mit.edu] to human rights in China. For years, American companies doing business in South Africa at the height of its apartheid perversion abided by the SP and treated African workers fairly, irrespective of the color of their skin. The key is that the American companies presented a united front abiding by principles of civil rights.

    Western companies like Google, Microsoft, and the like could present a unified front in dealing with Beijing. They could a

    • If Beijing retaliates by kicking Google out of China, then Beijing will expel all the other signatories to the WP. In this way, no Western company will gain an economic advantage over any other Western company.

      Ever heard of globalization? If western companies choose to stand up against the PRC (just suppose, it'll never happen, but just suppose), then thousands of companies from India, south-east Asia and Whereveristan, and even China's own, will fill the void in no time flat. That's why no western company
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:57PM (#14695829)
    But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.

    By law, corporations must consider only the shareholders. Nothing more. Any CEO who tells you his company is moral, cares about human rights, promotes democracy, or "does no evil", lies to you, because if his company's profits suffers even slightly from its moral stand, the shareholders can (and do) take actions against the execs to correct this.

    Morality is a foreign concept to corporations, unless morality is good for the bottom line (like building up an image to sell more products to people who care). Period.
    • If a company includes ethical principles in its charter, it is legally allowed to consider things other than profits. This type of thing is rare, but it does happen.

      There certainly moral and ethical corporations. But corporate morality and ehticality ends up getting framed in terms of greed. If a corporation pays its employees a good wage, it's assumed to get better or more loyal employees from this.
      • So often I've seen people on slashdot saying how inevitable it is that google will be evil since it has to at the end of the day make money for shareholders. While that is true, it does have to make money for shareholders, the fact that 'Do no evil' is in the google charter does ensure that it doesn't have to choose evil if given a choice between evil with profits or good with losses.
    • Have you ever taken a class in business management?

      The company's first job is to ensure shareholder value

      Not quarterly profits, shareholder value .

      If taking a moral or ethical stance creates more shareholder value, then everybody wins. Sometimes shareholder value is hard to quantify. The value of a brand name is often hard to quantify, but having a strong brand name creates value for the shareholders.

      Sorry for repeating it so many times, but the value of a company is often tangled up with intangibles.
  • At current growth rates, which appear to be sustainable, China will soon be the largest economy in the world in every measure. As long as we allow China to market in the US, no US company will have a chance to survive without the mass of China's market. If China launched a Google competitor targetting 1 billion potential customers that Google can't reach + all of Google's customers, Google's advertising revenue would plummet because Google's advertisers can no more survive without China than Google itself

  • The law. (Score:3, Informative)

    by XMilkProject (935232) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:59PM (#14695837) Homepage
    Something to keep in mind, that was mentioned last time we had an article like this:

    There are very strict and clear legal precedents about publicly traded companies. They are required by law to make all decisions in such a way that will maximize profit. I think people are forgetting that Google is not a private company, there is not one man making the business decisions.

    They are responsible to millions of shareholders, a large board of directors, and many private investors.

    If Google took actions (i.e. avoiding Chinese market) that significantly reduced profits, for no logical reason, they could easily be facing massive litigation from shareholders.

    If i'm not horribly mistaken, I think the Dodge Car Company was started with money the Dodge brothers received from Ford Motor Company when they sued Ford for keeping their car prices low instead of maximizing profits. (Dodge brothers were investors in Ford). Maybe someone else can provide more detail about this.
    • >They are required by law to make all decisions in such a way that will maximize profit.

      Not at the sacrifice of all. For example socially conscious companies.

      Also, profit maximization is really at the discression of the management. "Yes we could have made more, but we didn't want to take the risk/bad publicity/focus of our core compentencies/short term capitial expenses/better profit max in other areas."

      >They are responsible to millions of shareholders,

      This does not apply to Google, since its voting
      • Honestly I don't see much of a logical reason to avoid the market. The only reason I can come up with is "We will get bad publicity". But I think that this is not a huge concern.

        When I watch a news economy show, or read an article from an investment paper, I see that those buying stock in the company think that the China situation was the correct decision. (And of course anything that makes money will be the correct decision for this crowd).

        When I look at googles dedicated following, I don't see man
  • what about the law? (Score:3, Informative)

    by theonlyholle (720311) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @04:05PM (#14695875) Homepage
    For me the more interesting question is, don't corporations have an obligation to obey the law in countries they operate in? How can anyone seriously demand of Google (or any other company) to break the law in China? They have the right to do business there, same as in my country, and when they do, they have to do it in a law abiding way. We may not like the law and if it hurts their business elsewhere, a company may make the decision not to do business in a certain country... but that's a question of business ethics. I don't think any government should be allowed to dictate where a company can do business.
    • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @04:38PM (#14695999) Homepage
      Total non-sequitur red-herringed cop-out, with a bit of straw man thrown in to keep the crows off.

      You describe your question "Don't corporations have an obligation to obey the law in countries they operate in?" as an "interesting" one, when in fact it's rhetorical (which is quite the opposite). Now, for me it's an interesting question, because it brings up pointed questions about civil disobedience, the legitimacy of government, and the importance of the rule of law. For you, the question seems very settled: no.

      The question isn't whether Google should be trying to break the law in foreign countries, but whether they should be willing to operate in countries where they have to do something morally repugnant (censoring) in order to stay on the fair side of that country's laws. I'm conflicted on the question. But there is the additional question of what sort of pressure these companies should be trying to put on the Chinese government. Should Google have held out for a better deal, or perhaps used their position to try and persuade the government that censorship is bad?

      Like it or not, the government can and does dictate where its citizens do business. We can't trade with Cuba. We can't legally go to Thailand and have sex with eleven year old prostitutes. We have to pay tariffs on goods to and from many countries. The seventh grade civics version of this is that our Constitution empowers the government to decide how this country interacts with foreign countries. The only reason you can leave the country at all is because our government and the other governments of the world agreed on the rules.
    • >don't corporations have an obligation to obey the law in countries they operate in?

      For me the more interesting question is; Why would a company operate in a countries which have laws that force them to do something that is unethical? (in this case, these laws would force Google to violate its own "Do no evil" principal.)
    • companies are REQUIRED to stick to their... statute (whatever it's called) because if they DON'T then the directors can be kicked out by the shareholders.

      things like "maximise profits" are REQUIRED.

      maximising profits tends to conflict badly, as we have noted repeatedly, with things like "environmental impact" and stuff like that.

      so oh yes governments damn well _do_ have a right to dictate what businesses can and can't do, because it is a system of checks-and-balances against the stupidity of "maximise profi
    • don't corporations have an obligation to obey the law in countries they operate in?

      No, sometimes ethics is more important: Let's say a government demanded Google to turn over information on a political dissident, in order to torture and kill them. Should Google turn over the info? Would you?

  • by thefirelane (586885) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @04:06PM (#14695881)
    'I was asked the question the other day, do U.S. corporations have the obligation to promote democracy

    Remember this statement. It is very telling about current and future problems for the US. I think it explains a lot of the problems we are having in Iraq, and with Hamas.

    To these politicians, democracy naturally means no censorship, and things such as freedom of the press. It will probably come as a great surprise to them when many of these democracies they helped promote elect very theocratic controlling governments that do things such as censor and control the press.
  • Perhaps the war on despotism can be fought not with soldiers but with corporations and money.
  • Well, they want a piece of that pie.. And if they dont bend a little, they wont get any..

    $ wins over morals any day.
  • I was asked the question the other day, do U.S. corporations have the obligation to promote democracy? That's the wrong question. It would be great if they would promote democracy. But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.

    I think it's a much deeper philosophical question than that. It seems to me that Google has two choices: provide a censored search engine to China or provide no search engine at all. Now I can see arguments for both sides here, but I wouldn't say that

  • China has Baidu. Google needs China, else M$ takes it. Or someone else.

    China doesn't need Yahoo. China's got Taobao (AliBaba, which bought Yahoo). Yahoo needs China, Yahoo needs AliBaba.

    China doesn't need iTunes Music Store. China's got Aigo Digital Music. The **AA needs China, else they're fucked in the ass by one billion people. Actually, they are fucked anyway.

    China doesn't need you. YOU need China.

    Web firms who want to be democratic missionaries in China need to go with the system. This is a long proces
  • Google is Evil when they help a repressive government jail or otherwise punish a person for use of the Internet in any fashion that is not illegal in the United States. There are no two-ways about it.
  • Doesn't China still have "Most Favored Nation" trade status with the US? I guess the name was changed to "Normal Trade Relations" in 1998.

    Seems to me that if the U.S. government considers the Chinese government to be oppressive, to whom the export of normal civilian technologies should be restricted, then they should say so and stop talking out of both sides of their mouths.

    Its hard to fault Google for treating with the Chinese government in precisely the way our official trade stance with the Chinese says
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @04:57PM (#14696099) Homepage
    "But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship."

    Given the US support for dictatorships, monarchies and repressive regimes around the world for the last century - not to mention a repressive regime just installed in Iraq - this is hypocritical in the extreme.

    The Net companies are in China to make money. Are they supposed to tell the Chinese government to fuck off if they asked to comply with the laws of that country? Are they supposed to write off millions, scores of millions, or hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in that country if the result of such a refusal is a yanking of their license to operate in that country?

    "Morality" has nothing to do with it. Obviously any employee on the spot for such a situation has to make a personal decision as to whether he will comply with either the government's or management's request. That has nothing to do with the overall question of whether the company should accede to such requests.

    At best, the only legitimate question is whether a company should decide to invest in such a country, given the possibility that some such situation could arise. And given that ANY company involved in China could face a similar situation, it's disingenuous to single out the Net companies.

    I smell a rat. I smell an attempt to use the Net companies as a means of smearing China for the administration's own demonization purposes, irregardless of whatever China is responsible for.
  • I don't get it... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by db32 (862117)
    Why is this only becomming an issue now, as the government rattles its sword at these companies about giving up the search data to support...wait for it....wait for it...a law based on censorship... What the hell kind of sense does this make, scream at companies for aiding in the censorship abroad, and in the same breath ask them to help build a case for censorship at home.

    Nevermind the multitude of other companies operating in China taking advantage of lax labor laws and things like that. It would be
  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @06:29PM (#14696610)
    Capitalism isn't just the magical fount of universal goodness that Ayn Rand made it out to be. Corporations are essentially psychopathic, and will always do what will bring them financial profits, and only do what is legal and moral when doing so contributes to the bottom line. This isn't some well-kept secret or cryptic insight into modern history.

    IBM and Ford Motor Co., among many others, helped the Nazis. Today, Haliburton is involved in slave lavor and also trades with Iran, a known sponsor of state terrorism, and the U.S. Vice President has stock in the company. Who do you think armed the dictators of the world, socialist peace activists?

    Does this makes capitalism horrible? No, because it's only as good as we are. People like to do the right thing, and will do the right thing, when doing the wrong thing is no longer profitable or convenient. But when you work in a corporation where your job is to make profit for said corporation, and easy and convenient rationalizations abound for doing what you know would be wrong if you personally were doing it, you can still do it with a clean conscience, because it isn't you, it's the corporation.

    It isn't as if there are evil people out there somewhere doing evil things, and if only we could stop them, the world would be okay. That counts for a relatively small percentage of the badness in the world. Most of it comes from normal, decent people rationalizing their asses off so they can do what is profitable and convenient.

    • Does this makes capitalism horrible? No, because it's only as good as we are. People like to do the right thing, and will do the right thing, when doing the wrong thing is no longer profitable or convenient.

      Forget about right and wrong but history is filled with people who did things that were neither profitable nor convenient. The assumption that the sole motivation behind people to do things is because it is profitable and/or convenient is wrong.

      Look at the instituion of slavery which did not die out beca
  • Please explain... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skynyrd (25155) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @12:47AM (#14698398) Homepage
    So I've been wondering why Google is sudenly "evil" for filtering it's content for Chinese users.

    Here's my understanding, and I hope somebody can show me where my thinking is wrong.

    1) When a Chinese surfer searches on google.com (not google.cn) they get a list of 1,650,000 hits on "tiananmen square". However, the vast majority of them are blocked by the "great firewall of China".

    2) When a Chinese surfer searches google.cn they get 16,300 hits - and all of them are reachable.

    Isn't google.cn just removing the results that cannot be reached by Chinese users anyway?

    What am I missing?
    No. Really.

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