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Googlepealago:China Censorship Bad for Business January 29, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Coporate Policies.

Google’s decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

Google, launched in 1998 by two Stanford University dropouts, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, was accused of selling out and reneging on its “Don’t be evil” motto when it launched in China in 2005. The company modified the version of its search engine in China to exclude controversial topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre or the Falun Gong movement, provoking a backlash in its core western markets.

Jane Martinson, The Guardian

Finally, the Google founders have admitted that conforming to the wishes of Chinese government censors in the designing search engines was not such a good idea, if only because the decision to build in censorship caused a Western backlash. What in fact is happening is that Google, by agreeing to government restrictions on what Internet sites can be viewed in certain countries, is creating a Web equivalent to the Gulag Archipelago, the network of scattered areas of Soviet moral darkness so well described years ago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The “bad for business” argument is weak, although probably true. What would be better is for Brin and Page to take a firm stand against such actions in the future, and to take corrective action on Google China. Would Google be completely excluded from censoring countries were the company to oppose them? Probably. And that would create work-arounds, the search engine equivalents of Samizdat, unrest among internet users in the information gulags, and a massive groundswell of support, both for Google and for an end to censorship in the “core Western markets.” That kind of defiance would not only earn the respect of users world wide. It would also be consistent with Google’s “Don’t be evil” corporate mantra.

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