This is an archive of the old Stones Cry Out site. For the current site, click here.

« Punishment vs. Rehabilitation | Main | Georgia Goes After Voter Fraud »

January 24, 2006

Google Capitulates to China

The motto of the Google folks is "Don't be evil", and they certainly set a high bar in their Code of Conduct. But does capitulating to a communist government that doesn't want inconvenient facts to be known by its citizens fit in that code?

Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to roll out a new version of its search engine bearing China's Web suffix ".cn," on Wednesday. A Chinese-language version of Google's search engine has previously been available through the company's dot-com address in the United States.

By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world's most populous country.

Because of government barriers set up to suppress information, Google's China users previously have been blocked from using the search engine or encountered lengthy delays in response time.

The service troubles have frustrated many Chinese users, hobbling Google's efforts to expand its market share in a country that expected to emerge as an Internet gold mine over the next decade.

Now, this isn't a First Amendment issue (which only applies to the US federal government) and Google is free to conduct its business any way it sees fit. I have no issue with that. I'm just noticing the apparent disconnect between its motto and its actions.
Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted "don't be evil" as a motto. But management believes it's a worthwhile sacrifice.

"We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel.

Google's decision rankled Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog group that has sharply criticized Internet companies including Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.'s for submitting to China's censorship regime.

"This is a real shame," said Julien Pain, head of Reporters Without Borders' Internet desk. "When a search engine collaborates with the government like this, it makes it much easier for the Chinese government to control what is being said on the Internet."

Does filtering search results rise to the level of being truly "evil". No, not really. But it does make it complicit in doing a disservice to Chinese users who want to learn about what freedom really means. It may not be "evil", but I don't know how "good" it is. Google does filter things in other countries, like some Nazi references in Germany and France, but I think this is a bit different.

Posted by Doug at January 24, 2006 08:17 PM

Trackback Pings


This is what needs to be done to work in China and the Chinese people know that whatever form of media they see is censored. Personally I feel it's better for the Chinese to have access to some form of Google instead of none. These small changes will make Chinese society more open and finally bring democracy to the country.

Posted by: Jim at January 25, 2006 01:21 AM

I am the editor of BNN, and I have discontinued Google Ads on my site. I am inviting other bloggers to do the same:

Posted by: Robert at January 25, 2006 02:22 AM

I'm torn. My initial and still dominant reaction is sadness for Google selling its soul for access to the Chinese market. I am aware of no western company that's made a success of this, mostly because the Chinese government makes it so hard to repatriate profits.

On the other hand I agree with Jim. The most cataclysmic change to human society since the Industrial Revolution was the introduction of cheap transistor radios. In the west it helped spread rock and roll, but in the Commmunist and third world countries it opened up the world for common people, despite the government run propaganda stations and jamming.

If you would like to help people disguise their attempts to use the Internet, look into being part of TOR (The Onion Router) project. Get more information here:

Posted by: Jon Gallagher at January 25, 2006 12:08 PM