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Google's Shareholders Vote Against Human Rights 376

yo_cruyff notes a Computerworld article on Google's recent annual shareholder meeting, which was dominated by argument over the company's human rights policies. Google's shareholders, on advice from their board, have voted down two proposals on Thursday that would have compelled Google to change its policies. "Google [has been] coming under fire for operating a version of its search engine that complies with China's censorship rules. Google argues that it's better for it to have a presence in the country and to offer people some information, rather than for it not to be active in China at all... [S]hareholders and rights groups including Amnesty International... continue to push Google to improve its policies in countries known for human rights abuses and limits on freedom of speech... Sergey Brin, cofounder and president of technology for Google, abstained from voting on either of the proposals. 'I agreed with the spirit of these proposals,' Brin said. But he said he didn't fully support them as they were written, and so did not want to vote for them."
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Google's Shareholders Vote Against Human Rights

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  • kdawson (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:43AM (#23350866)
    is a troll.

    +5, Informative.
    • Re:kdawson (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:54AM (#23351036)
      The parent is modded as flamebait but has a good point. There are sufficient complexities to this story that the choice of title by kdawson should be viewed as somewhat sensationalist.\
      • Re:kdawson (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 09, 2008 @01:06PM (#23352162) Homepage Journal
        I completely agree. I don't feel that Google's position is unquestionable, but it is certainly understandable. They either abide by the law in China, or pull out completely. China would likely prefer that Google pull out, as it would aid the Chinese economy and growth of Baidu. In that regard, I can certainly understand why Google feels it is better to create inroads.

        Breaking Chinese law isn't much of an option for a mega-corporation.
        • Re:kdawson (Score:5, Insightful)

          by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @03:39PM (#23354160)
          OK, let's say, just for arguments sake, that deciding to engage in business with China is "voting against human rights".

          How many times a week do you, personally, engage in business with China, in the form of purchasing or using Chinese goods? If you're reading this on a MacBook, for instance, you're engaging in business with China (made in China). Listening to an iPod? Same deal. Shopped at Wal-Mart any time in the past year? Odds are you bought something made in China. An extraordinary amount of the consumer goods in the world- not just the United States, but even dirt-poor nations in Africa- are manufactured in China. I'm not saying that Google is entirely innocent here, but how many of us could be considered to be "voting against human rights" with our purchases?

          Even assuming we could stop buying Chinese goods (I'm skeptical), however, would it do any good? Look at Cuba. We've largely isolated the Castro regime, but Castro was, I believe, the longest reigning leader of the past century, and the country remained virtually unaffected. The embargo failed to destabilize or change the Cuban regime, if anything it secured Castro's lock on power by insulating the country from outside forces, and allowed the regime to persist unaltered by the outside world. Engaging with a corrupt, repressive totalitarian state like China is distasteful, but it may do more to help the people of China than taking the moral high road and refusing to engage.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Gewalt ( 1200451 )
      Agreed, kdawson is indeed a troll. Perhaps /. should give us the ability to ignore his posts? (oh wait, it does)
    • Re:kdawson (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @02:06PM (#23352956) Homepage
      You know... I almost meta-moderated this post to try and get the "Troll" removed. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that he accused the editor, rather than the story. I don't know enough about the editor's history to support calling everything he does a troll. This particular story, on the other hand, is about as trolling and biased as I've seen. One could certainly argue that Google's share holders made the wrong decision here, but there's a pretty good argument the other way too. From the headline you'd think Google's board voted in favor of genoncide or something.

      They had exactly two choices, both of them with potentially "evil" outcomes, and they chose what they considered the lesser evil. Disagree with them? Fine. That hardly qualifies them as heartlessly evil. Did profit come into the question? Probably... If I have exactly two choices, both with good and bad possible outcomes, but one is likely to make me a few bucks at least... Well, I know I'd probably choose that one.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        You know... I almost meta-moderated this post to try and get the "Troll" removed. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that he accused the editor, rather than the story. I don't know enough about the editor's history to support calling everything he does a troll.

        I do. He's that bad. Any story that can either be published or be reworded to stick the boot into Microsoft or attract any other similar Slashdotter kneejerk reaction is accepted by this guy, and he insists on giving the raving lunatic Twitte
  • Good? Bad? (Score:4, Funny)

    by RandoX ( 828285 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:43AM (#23350878)
    I'm the guy with the gun.
  • The Problem (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:48AM (#23350932)
    The problem isn't that Google hates human rights. It is just that nobody would believe the formula:

    1. Support human rights
    2. ???
    3. Profit!
    • Re:The Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Serenissima ( 1210562 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:54AM (#23351032)
      Yeah, it's actually quite a shock. Who would have ever guessed that Shareholders would be more concerned with their investments than with changing the domestic policy of a foreign government? That's a total surprise.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MrMarket ( 983874 )
        Depends on the investor. I voted in favor of the proposals on my proxy. I'd be curious to see the distribution of votes between individual and institutional shareholders.
        • Re:The Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hiryuu ( 125210 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @01:28PM (#23352500)
          Depends on the investor. I voted in favor of the proposals on my proxy. I'd be curious to see the distribution of votes between individual and institutional shareholders.

          Ditto on similar things I've recently seen pass through investment houses like Fidelity. I saw shareholder proposals relating to abstaining from investments that benefit regimes that contribute to genocide (specifically, the Darfur-China issue), and the board statement on the proxies of course said "The board recommends voting against this proposal." Do we "play to win," and damn the cost, or do we play to the best of our ability while having a conscience? I think I know the "business" answer to this.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Omestes ( 471991 )
            I've always pondered this. It seems that most of the ardent capitalists I know think that profit should always come above the namby-pamby ethical concerns, since corporations are beyond ethics. (which is odd, since they are somewhat legally individuals, and we expect individuals to be ethical) Instead they expect their corporations to follow the law as the ethical minimum. We can see how this often gets blurred into illegal activity with shareholder apathy or encouragement then.

            This operates under a ver
      • Re:The Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @01:29PM (#23352508)

        Or looked at less cynically, they may be realistic enough to see that Google pulling out of China won't change China's policy, but will give the Chinese people even less access to information. In other words, they figured out that maintaining the moral high ground at the expense of the Chinese citizens didn't do anyone any good.

        They may fully value human rights, but disagree on the best way to get there.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by coaxial ( 28297 )
          I call strawman.

          Let's examine this argument shall we?

          Pre-Google (and here "Google" can be replaced without loss of generality for any Western internet company) China (which can again be replaced with any totalitarian regime) had less access to information than rest of the world. Fine. I think everyone will agree to that. You are argue by that Google by simply being available increases access to information. Let's, assume that's true for the sake of argument. Now assuming that access to Google increase
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AusIV ( 950840 )
            Google may not be offering access to censored information, but they're still offering access to some information. They have less access to information than the rest of the world, but it's easier to access the information they do have.

            As I see it, Google has two options. Comply with the government's censorship demands, or stop doing business in the country. Neither of these does the citizens of China any good. If they comply with the censorship demands, there is still a lot of information that can be deliv

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Now assuming that access to Google increases information, here's where your, and Google, and all the other Western Totalitarian Regime Apologists', argument breaks down: GOOGLE IS FUCKING CENSORED! There's no increase in access to information, because the information that China blocks the information.

            Here's where your argument breaks down: NOT ALL THE SEARCHES ARE CENSORED. In fact, the vast majority aren't, because people search for all kinds of things that don't piss off the Commies. Like learning abo

  • by Anonymous Coward
    News at 11.
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      It's 11:00. Babies are the root of all evil [].
      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        Slashdot, your clock is wrong. Have you been huffing kittins [] again?

        Well actually now it's 11:07 but I had to look up the "root of all evil". It appears that the right wingers (Godwin) are wrong, and that government is NOT in fact the root of all evil.

        Google is? Ok, I guess. All its employees were babies once. Many slashdotters still are (but not you, dear reader)
  • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <hagan.jared @ g m a i> on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:50AM (#23350968)
    It's hard to think objectively when you have "Google Votes Against Human Rights" as the headline. Did Google vote in favor of genocide or stoning dissidents? No. What they did do was to make a nuanced calculation that I think most reasonable people would agree with. I agree with Google that it is better to provide some information than none. Seriously, what is it going to harm the Chinese government if Google packed up. Google is in a far better position to do good now than if they were completely out of the country. Amnesty and the rest can't see the forest for the trees. Taking a stand in prinicple is just that, in principle with no effect on things in the real world. Pressure Google to use its position in China to lobby for more freedom, don't try and make them leave.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Indeed. I'm sure the Chinese Government is in favor of more ignorance amongst the populace, not less. It is a tough call, but I would agree that giving some, is better than giving nothing at all.
    • by Brigadier ( 12956 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:03PM (#23351188)

      google is a company, NOT a person. It's purpose is to survive and make profit. I hate it when people act as if corporations are suppose to save the world or something. Professional Ethics aside google's job is to make money and with half the world population being situated in Asia opening up market share there early is important. If people are so cought up with the censorship of the Chinese government then stop buying Chinese products.
      • by dwater ( 72834 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:15PM (#23351384)
        What you say is true for Google, since it's a publicly traded company, but that's not true for all companies. Some exist purely 'to save the world or something'.
        I'd also posit that, in this day and age, considering ethics in the way your company makes money is a sound long term profitable strategy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I would say that Google agrees, given that their motto only deals with morals. The problem with a corporation focusing on morality as a business decision is that sometimes the way something appears isn't the way that it actually works out. Something that you made for the best moral reasons you could at the time may end up making you look like a guard at Auschwitz. As a business strategy, morality only works if you go for the most superficial morality that you can, which often ends up being less good than mo
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I dislike when people act as if you can solve all the world's problems by pressure with the pocketbook. There is something to be said for the maxim that the same reasoning that gets you into a problem can't get you out of one. Greed can't be fixed by more greed. Now I'm all for market freedoms, I support free trade and would like to get rid of farm subsidies because it is important for a business to be able to freely operate. However, their does come a time when ethics overturns profit even for a corporatio
      • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:24PM (#23351528) Homepage Journal
        You can do both, and a Corporation is held to it's mission statement.
        I have work for plenty of corporation that also spent money to help people.

        "stop buying Chinese products"
        That is no longer possible in any practical way...You can't even live on the street without getting products from China.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by anothy ( 83176 )

        google is a company, NOT a person. It's purpose is to survive and make profit.

        according to what? the fact that they're a listed public company doesn't (inherently) say anything about their purpose. their own statement of purpose:

        Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

        as far as the company is officially concerned, stock price - and even profit! - are simply means to that end (although obviously profit is a pretty crucial one). investors buy the s

      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @02:33PM (#23353238)
        Corporations are intelligence without morals. But that's exactly what runs wrong. Corporations hold sizable power in our world. They control the markets, money and to some degree governments and even people.

        So yes, according to the market theory, their mission is just to make their shareholders rich. But I think this should change soon if we don't want to end up with a lot of power in the hands of an immoral, intelligent beast.
    • by LMacG ( 118321 )
      Seldom has the submitter name "Anonymous Coward" been more fitting.
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      I agree with Google that it is better to provide some information than none

      Then you disagree with the statement "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?" []
    • by Otter ( 3800 )
      Taking a stand in prinicple is just that, in principle with no effect on things in the real world.

      If Google took a public stance of refusing to provide censored searches, that would most certainly have an "effect on things in the real world". At least as much effect as the vague lobbying that you want them to do instead.

    • by anothy ( 83176 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:56PM (#23352012) Homepage
      i agree with you (and google) about the right course of action here, and that folks like Amnesty are missing the big picture or long view, but i think you're off base on one point:

      Taking a stand in prinicple is just that, in principle with no effect on things in the real world.
      principled stands can and do often have an effect on the real world. in this particular case, having Google make a hard-line principled stance would have no effect on China because Google has lots of competitors that aren't likely to make the same decision. similar debates have come up in the US federal government, and it's a very different question there. there's no logical inconsistency between voting against this Google-specific measure (because it'd have no positive effect, and arguably a negative one by removing the best information service and replacing it with an inferior one) and voting for government mandated restrictions (because getting Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft aligned could be powerful enough to make a difference in China's policy), even though both represent hard-line principled stands.
    • Here's the full information: A son kills his father after years of abuse, in self defense when his dad was drunk again, beating him close to death's door.

      Here's some information: A son kills his father.

      Do you see the difference?

      Offering some information may give you not only no information, but skewed or twisted information. Which can indeed be worse than none.
  • by urcreepyneighbor ( 1171755 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:51AM (#23350978)

    'I agreed with the spirit of these proposals,' Brin said.
    Brin quickly added, "but I love money too much!"
  • by Hyppy ( 74366 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:51AM (#23350982)
    Google's shareholders did not "vote against human rights," they voted against a policy change that was proposed. Even the summary admits that Sergey abstained because he didn't agree with the way the proposals were written, not because he disagreed with the spirit.

    Slow news day much?
    • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:19PM (#23351444) Homepage

      Even the summary admits that Sergey abstained because he didn't agree with the way the proposals were written, not because he disagreed with the spirit.

      I don't think that reflects well on Sergey. To me it reads like, he thought the vote would go the way it did so he didn't need to vote against it, but wasn't 100% sure so he didn't risk voting for it.

      Sounds like weasely plausible deniability. "I have to run by this policy because that's how the shareholders voted. But it's not my fault--I didn't vote."

      To the folks saying, how is this news? Because it's Google. When your corporate policy is, "do whatever we can get away with to make a profit," and you do just that, it's not noteworthy.

      When your policy is, "do no evil," but what you actually end up doing is "whatever we can get away with to make a profit," I think it's worth noting the contrast between word and deed.

  • Google (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:52AM (#23350992) Journal
    Do know evil.
    • Well, any company is only as good as the share holders. Most people are evil therefore most people who buy stock are evil, therefore major corporations that are publicly traded are evil. Or to quote Douglas Adams "People are the problem,"
    • by dwater ( 72834 )
      Always good to know your enemy, IMO.
  • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:52AM (#23350996) Journal

    If you're part of a system, then you're in some way supporting it. Examples of successfully changing a system from within are few and far between and are usually where someone couldn't voluntarily leave the system anyway. Systems are more usually replaced by a competing system. If Google want to change things, they should not submit to China's demands and walk away if need be. That would be a far stronger message and powerful effect than simply agreeing to their terms. I fail to see how they expect to change things through obedience.
    • by Hyppy ( 74366 )
      Do you think China really cares all that much about Google? Seriously?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dwater ( 72834 )
        Absolutely not. Such a move would likely not even be noticed by much of the population. I expect it might get a news item of some sort, but would receive the usual 'stupid ignorant Americans' reaction from much of the populous; and rightly so, IMO.

        China doesn't *need* Google. Not even in the slightest. They have much more popular alternatives already.
    • by Kijori ( 897770 )

      If you're part of a system, then you're in some way supporting it. Examples of successfully changing a system from within are few and far between[...]

      Really? I take it you're not counting lobbying, campaigning, running for office, demonstrating or striking - all part of the system, and all ways that have changed an awful lot of things. Women didn't get the vote because we were invaded. Tax changes aren't effected by an international committee. Abortion law isn't shaped by some guy deep in the wild west living off the grid. Being in the system gives you a platform, and a voice, and an audience. Standing outside the town hall just leaves you out of the m

  • Proxy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:52AM (#23351002) Journal
    Some funds in my 401k had issues with the crisis in Darfur. The board recommended that the fund do nothing about it. I voted that they should. Unfortunately, a no reply from other shareholders is counted as votes for the board's recommendation. Most shareholder's don't even open and read the proxies, let alone vote on them. I would sell the shares but it's my 401k and all of the available funds are managed by the same company.
    • by dwater ( 72834 )

      I would sell the shares but it's my 401k and all of the available funds are managed by the same company.
      So you're saying that money is more important to you too?
      • Re:Proxy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Stradivarius ( 7490 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @01:54PM (#23352828)

        So you're saying that money is more important to you too?
        I think he's saying that his 401k doesn't have options that let him easily vote with his dollars. His only option would be to withdraw his funds completely from the 401k, thus taking a financial penalty and possibly endangering his ability to support himself when he's old.

        Unless you're living on the street, you and your kids are eating a bare minimum subsistence diet, you're saving nothing for retirement or for their education, all because you've given every bit of money you have to support the crisis in Darfur or oppose censorship in China... unless you've done all that, you're in the same glass house as the rest of us.

        Give the guilt-trip a rest. In the real world, people have to make trade-offs between conflicting but deeply-held principles. Choosing to feed your kids doesn't mean you don't care greatly about the hungry in Africa, or censorship in China. When you have limited resources you have to choose. There's nothing wrong or hypocritical about that.
  • Change from within (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:55AM (#23351058) Journal
    Shareholders and rights groups including Amnesty International... continue to push Google to improve its policies in countries known for human rights abuses and limits on freedom of speech.

    The only way that Google can ever have any influence in opening China's information control policies is if Google is actually operating in China. Right now, that means that they must comply with the PRC minimum standards. If the China kicks Google out, then Google's sway in China is reduced to zero. If you really want to be concerned with censorship in China, then you should want Google to gain as much prominence there as possible, and for Google to always be pushing in the right direction. Not making some idealistic stand that alienates them, but being a valued part of China that moves the entire cultural body of China gently towards better human rights.
  • In most companies, an abstained vote counts as a vote in favor of the board's recommendation. The shareholders didn't necessarily vote down the proposals, but instead didn't vote at all.

    you must wait a little bit before you may use this resource
    How long is "a little bit"?
    • by abstain I mean not voting at all, as opposed to an option called abstain.

      just thought I should clarify.
    • From the Google proxy: []

      For the other items of business, you may vote "FOR," "AGAINST" or "ABSTAIN." If you elect to "ABSTAIN," the abstention has the same effect as a vote "AGAINST." If you provide specific instructions with regard to certain items, your shares will be voted as you instruct on such items. If no instructions are indicated, the shares will be voted as recommended by the board of directors.

  • by athloi ( 1075845 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @11:59AM (#23351120) Homepage Journal
    In a shareholder meeting, the only question being asked is "Does this raise or lower our income?"

    If the answer is "lower," those proposing the idea have to come up with a darn good reason why, or the shareholders get angry, because their stock is going to be worth less than it could be.

    China is a big market, and Google wants to expand aggressively into this, so it was a sensible business decision.

    Was it a sensible decision in other areas, like ethics or law? The answer to that has to be asked of a higher entity, because it is the pressure of the shareholders' demands that makes Google unable to answer to those areas.
    • by anothy ( 83176 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:18PM (#23351434) Homepage

      In a shareholder meeting, the only question being asked is "Does this raise or lower our income?"
      while this is certainly true the vast majority of the time in practice, there's no particular reason it has to be. lots of people are interested in things other than making money, and shareholder's meetings are a way of expressing to the board all the shareholder's interests. this is why many corporations keep much of the stock off the market, so they can be sure to dictate at least some substantial portion of those interests.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      "Does this raise or lower our income?"
      No, it's not.

      And you can't predict what would have happened.

      And if shareholders don't like it, they can sell. If they feel it was done improperly, they can sue.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume ( 22995 )
      Google is somewhat a special case. Larry and Sergey have a controlling voting interest and thus have broad leeway to interpret what is in shareholder's interests: []
  • Better than in US (Score:5, Informative)

    by thtrgremlin ( 1158085 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:03PM (#23351190) Homepage Journal
    What Google has done is great, and I wish Google was allowed to interpret the censorship rules in the US the same way they do in China. What Google has UNIQUELY done (compared to every other search company as far as I know) is that they inform the user of when and why they are censored and the governmental department that has censored them. That is WAY better than what we have here where content is taken down and 'black bag' the content in such a way to make it appear that such information never existed, NOT that the government is trying to control your thoughts.

    Hopefully Google will try to bring the same freedom to the US they have brought to China. Way to go shareholders for being informed voters and not paying attention to stupid articles like this one that trys to distort the facts for attention and ratings.

    Amnesty International used to be more prudent about stuff like this. Shame on them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Omestes ( 471991 )
      [...]and I wish Google was allowed to interpret the censorship rules in the US the same way they do in China.

      From my experience they do. Sometimes you run across the "Chilling Effects" notice at the bottom of you result, with the text that says something to the effect of "someone forced us to remove something, here is all the info". A savvy searcher can read the Chilling Effects page, and see who called for the censorship, and have some idea that something is missing.

      While this solution isn't optimal (opt
  • by DaveWick79 ( 939388 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:06PM (#23351226)
    How can one be critical of Google's business practices in China?

    Every time you or I make a decision to buy a product made in China we are voting against human rights.
    Why do we support financially a country with such a track record? Because we are either making money doing it, or saving money doing it. Ultimately, we care more about our own pocketbook than the plight of humans elsewhere.
    • Then stop buying products made in China!
      • Sure. You just point me towards the motherboard, processor, or any other computer part that isn't made in China, and I am there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dwater ( 72834 )

      Every time you or I make a decision to buy a product made in China we are voting against human rights.

      Every time you buy a product from *anywhere*, including the USA, you vote against human rights. I might even say *particularly* the USA.

      I might also note your use of 'track record' - your use of this term assumes that nothing has changed. Even someone who is reformed has a 'track record', but might be considered totally trustworthy. China is changing at an amazingly fast rate, and it *is* getting better - I don't think anyone would argue otherwise.
      Most of the negative opinion of China comes from being brou

    • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Friday May 09, 2008 @01:14PM (#23352298) Homepage Journal

      Everytime we buy a product from China we infuse money into that economy. We give someone the choice (and it IS their choice) to put down their shovel and give up the agrarian lifestyle that their ancestors have had for the last _6000 years_ (it's China, remember), and do something different.

      For every poverty stricken child that ends up working in a factory making shoes, we can say two things about that child
      - they are more likely to be able to eat than if they had no other source of income
      - they are less likely to be forced into child prostitution, which is a serious concern in many developing economies in Asia

      It is understandable to think "we enjoy certain labor and lifestyle conditions in the west; everyone should have them". But it's irrational and erroneous. Sectors of the Chinese economy and populace have gone from agrarian to industrial to information based in a fraction of the time it took Europe and the US to do so.

      Look at South Korea, which essentially got its start in 1950. For a long time there was a command economy and a suppression of democracy and personal wealth. Yet in fewer than 50 years South Koreas standard of living and material wealth has grown such that in many ways it outpaces the US. Democracy has arrived.

      It makes no sense to talk about "working conditions in china" as some sort of single faceted problem. China is a country where rural poor still die from flooding every year on one end, and Hong Kong on the other, which has the worlds highest-per-capita Rolls Royce ownership (despite draconian anti-car rules).

      Money is freedom, because freedom in its most abstract sense is choice, and nothing facilitates the execution of personal choice better than having money. The more money we infuse into the Chinese economy, not via government action, but into the leaf nodes -- the people making shoes or any of the other things westerners are calling "slave labor", the more freedom we inject into the most critical portions of the Chinese populace.

      I'm no happier about kids working in factories than Americans were at the time of the US industrial revolution. But what I am happy about is that everywhere the American system (which is really the British system) has taken root, the total length of time taken to transition from "agrarian poverty" to "modern economy with full human rights, individual liberty, and high standard of living for the majority" become shorter and shorter, every time.

      Now to be fair, "we" are infusing all of this money into China because we think it is in our best interest, not because of some altrusitic paternalism. However -- and this is the "invisible hand" theory showing up -- the Chinese are working for us because _they_ beleive it is in _their_ best interest. The result of our profit-driven desire is that a ton of money is infused into the Chinese economy, which DOES have real benefits to real humans in China.

      Suggesting that we cut off that money is somehow altruistic or responsible or any other number of things is simply assinine in the face of a real analysis. You're essentially telling a 10 year old girl who works in a factory "for your own good, we're not going to let you work at all. Good luck finding food or taking care of your sick parents".

  • by Dreadneck ( 982170 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:08PM (#23351258)
    The Chinese people are responsible for pushing back against their government. It isn't Google's responsibility to stand up for the rights of the Chinese. There are over 1.2 billion people living in China - the Chinese government stands or falls at their pleasure. Apparently they are content with the government they have. When they decide otherwise then it is their responsibility and no one else's to change things.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lilfields ( 961485 )
      I don't know if you could say they are content with their government, seeing as most are probably afraid to stand up to it and others simple don't know if there are better ways to govern the people. I doubt many in the U.S. are content with their government, luckily we have elections, free information and free speech...they have...uhh a censored Google index.
    • by dwater ( 72834 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:47PM (#23351866)
      Right. They think that the government have done wonders for their country, and I find little evidence with which to argue.

      I'm with Ron Paul on this issue - I don't agree with his negative opinion of China, but I agree with his 'attitude'. I don't agree with his 'desire' to see the government 'collapse' so much as see it change for the better.
      If you want to influence another country's future, you need to work from a place of cooperation, not by attempting to bully them.

      "Free trade cannot be enforced through threats or by resorting to international protectionist organizations such as the WTO. Even if the Chinese are recalcitrant in opening up their markets, it is not the role of the United States government to lecture the Chinese government on what it should or should not do in its own economy."
  • by Prisoner's Dilemma ( 1268306 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:08PM (#23351260)
    Even though I am constantly disappointed with what Google has become with regard to it's policies, in this case, I can't fault them.

    It's correct that it would have made a stronger point for Google to say it's raw or nothing. It's also easy to sit back with wallet firmly secured and say that THEY should be making that point. I'll bet many of the people faulting Google still purchase products that are in some part made in China or some other country that has similar practices.

    In all reality, it is ludicrous to think investors trying to make money , not a point, would vote for something that might keep their for profit corporation from capitalizing on access to an upcoming super power. It's possible, maybe even likely, that China will eventually become larger profit center for Google than the US.

  • For Profit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chord.wav ( 599850 )
    It's not Google's fight. They are in to make money. Period. Do no evil? Please, don't be naive.

    And for those of you who say "If you are part of the system, you support it" and criticize Google for not standing up against human right violations, well, then stop buying everything made in China and stand up yourself first! Stop buying Nike shoes, iPods, some GAP cloth, Notebooks, Blu-ray players, LCD TVs and many other gadgets you love so much...Suddenly China's human right violations doesn't sound too much ev
  • Even a restricted version of google could, in theory, offer backdoor searches to the crafty and brave Chinese user.

    Although google may filter content from searches for 'free tibet' or 'tianaman square', I would imagine that the actual search engine still operates in the same fashion as it does in the 'free' world.

    Thus, google would only be blocking requests in a semantic fashion, yes? From an information perspective, google should still be able to index and serve results for content which is against Chines
  • I think no access to google is against Chinese people. The China government doesn't care if there is a google at all, but if Chinese loose google, although lamed, they loose a lot. They won't gain any progress is human right and they will loose the best search engine on the internet.
  • I wonder what the computed value of an Ad-Click is in China? Most of the country is dirt poor. Exactly which segments of the Chinese population are being reached by Google?

    Clearly the bottom line is the bottom line.

  • by Conspicuous Coward ( 938979 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @12:50PM (#23351916)

    The reaction displayed to this story on Slashdot is so typical of people's biases here. Everybody is quick to defend Google, as they are still widely seen as a good company. I don't think it takes a genius to predict that the typical response would be very different if this story was about Microsoft. I think censorship is wrong whoever does it.

    For the record I have no illusions that any for profit company would be acting any differently to Google in this situation, choosing to do business in China and ignoring the ethical implications. This is of course widely seen in the use of cheap Chinese labour to manufacture western consumer goods etc. I also have no illusions that the Chinese are somehow the only repressive govt around the world and that the focus on them by westerners is not more than a little hypocritical.

    None of that excuses people aiding an authoritarian regime in censoring information. Clearly in order to appease the Chinese authorities Google now have smart people employed in figuring out how to better censor the internet. This advances the technology of censorship and is of detriment to freedom everywhere, not just in China, none of this occurs in a vacuum and the Chinese govt are not the only group prone to censorship.

    I'm not saying boycott China or anything like that, simply that western corporations should be forced to adhere to the same ethical standards in China they would be forced to in the West.

    So, while maybe it's hypocritical to single out Google for special criticism, I also think it's wrong to defend them and to pretend that "do no evil" will ever be more than clever marketing. There should be regulation to prevent this kind of thing in any country that even pretends to care about freedom of speech.

  • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Friday May 09, 2008 @01:32PM (#23352558) Homepage Journal
    The story headline and my headline are essentially equivalent. They're both ridiculous, inflammatory, mischaracterizations of what happened.

    I'm sure we all love the election season political advertising that says foolish crap like "Bob Jackass voted NO to making our schools better!"

    Well of course he did, because the particular bill in question said something like "50% tax on milk to improve school funding", and Bob thought there were some drawbacks to that approach.

    It's not that Google shareholders are against human rights in China. At every public company, a few activist shareholders come up with proposals they want to be voted on that say things like "improve human rights in China" and invariably the board suggests voting against them. I don't think there's some widespread malign for human rights in China. I think there is a real concern that the particulars of the proposal damage or have the potential to damage the business in a way that doesn't offset the hypothetical progress made towards acheiving the aim.

    The real story here is that todays proposal of the month got prioritized below some other shareholder objective. Not that Google hates the idea of chinese freedom.

    Look at this from Google's perspective. It is in their best interest to make Chinese citizens info-addicts. Google wants to be in the business of making the CHinese people completely dependant on Google for finding out as much as possible. Giving them more possible choices and better filtering/searching technology to whittle the results down to what the PEOPLE want is what will endear google with more customers and a more lucrative eyeballs base to their advertising clients.

    The special tricks and procedures Google has to put in place to operate in the Chinese market are a cost of doing business in China, one I'm sure they'd rather dispense with if they thought they could. Some blowhard activist popping up and saying "just don't play ball with the Chinese government" is unrealistic for a variety of reasons.

  • Related issues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @02:03PM (#23352922)
    One political complaint these days is that U.S. dollars are going to China, leading to a lowered value of the dollar. Google has the effect of returning some of these dollars to the U.S.

    Although China is one of the less free countries, it is improving. Think about that it was like 25 or 50 years ago. Now it is rapidly industrializing and becoming richer. Increased freedom is a major cause of the increased wealth, and these newly richer people are better able to promote more freedom. Google's technology is helping this trend.

    The sort of people who create this sort of stockholder initiative either have no interest in the success of Google or they're too blind to see that such silliness harms Google. Political posturing and power grabs make up the majority of the stockholder initiatives I've seen in the last decade.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein