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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Don't Be Evil... Unless You Can Make A Buck

Google has recently made a pact with the communist dictatorship currently ruling China. If China allows them to spread their business in that nation, Google will agree to assist China's oppression of its people by censoring any sites mentioning democracy. Other sites that Google will censor for the regime include references to Taiwan independence, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibetan leader the 14th Dalai Lama, Falun Gong, and anything else the Chinese government doesn't want it's people to know about. In addition, Google will be providing a special edition of its 'news' service that will be confined to media sanctioned by the communist government.

Of course, that's not how Google would phrase it. They are attempting to fudge over this pact with a good amount of 'corporate-speak'. They called it an "excruciating decision" but said that it was a "worthwhile sacrifice".

Google's senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin would have us believe that this deal is a way to get at least something to the Chinese people, even if it can't be everything. He said, "While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission."

The problem with this alleged reasoning is that the Chinese people aren't simply missing out on the information being censored. What is not being censored are the Chinese government's pages on those topics. So, when a Chinese citizen looks up 'democracy' he or she will see only the communist government's pages on that topic (explaining how horrible democracy is, no doubt).

That isn't 'better than nothing' and it isn't 'better than a heavily degraded user experience'. It's worse - much, much worse; thanks to Google.

McLaughlin also suggests that the pact with this regime is "better serving Chinese customers". If, by 'Chinese customers' he means the brutal and oppressive regime ruling China, then maybe so. If he means the people of China then he must be joking.

More corporate-speak from McLaughlin stated that their censorship would be "based on local laws, regulations or policies." He makes it sound as though he's talking about a responsible company obeying laws, regulations, and policies of a legitimately elected representative government. Is McLaughlin aware that the murder of Native Americans, the killing of Jews, or the beheadings of infidels are or were all "local policies" as well?

Google is a company with a contractual responsibility to increase its revenues to its shareholders. As such, the growing hotbed of economic opportunity in China is difficult for them to resist. They see great profits as yet untapped in this population of over a billion people with growing internet activity.

But each and every person who works in and for Google is a human being first. As such they have a higher responsibility not to do evil. Google's own motto is "don't be evil" and it appears this was only fluff. When it came to exploiting an opportunity to make money even while assisting in the oppression of others, Google chose that option over any other concern, and is now trying to whitewash it with corporate-speak.

I had been considering adding a Google ad banner to my site and have decided against that. I will also be removing the Google search bar from the bottom of my page. Lastly, I'll be finding some search engine alternatives and using them instead from now on. This site is hosted by blogspot, which I think may have been bought by Google. But, as far as I know, there are no ad banners or other means by which this gives Google profit, but I'll be keeping all options open.

If you are interested, there is a group called Reporters Without Borders which has recently voiced its concerns over this. HERE is there site, and HERE is their article on the Google/China alliance.

For Associated Press news articles on this, you can visit HERE and HERE.

Free China Movement

Also, check out my following entry on this for Google Alternatives.

Update: May 8, 2006:
It seems Google is having troubles over 'Click Fraud' for its advertisements. Click HERE to read the AP story on this. Also, there are further abuses associated with Google Adwords and THIS video clip illustrates what's going on.

If you have other resources, information, etc. on the Chinese government or Google relating to this, please feel free to comment or contact me, thanks.

Update: June 7, 2006:
Google Reconsidering?


  1. As usual, you have hit it on the head and Im just barely catching on. i had heard about the google/china thing and didnt even look into the information to see exactly what was going on. there has got to be a way to get the word out to the general public. most people are glad to be told what to think and believe so i imagine that the 95%ers will just flush the info but if enough 5%ers get it we can make a difference. dont be evil..... okay. remember....evil will prevail if good men (women) do nothing. i applaud you DT.