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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Google Alternatives

(note: if you haven't read my first entry on this, please do first, thanks.)

I've been reading a little around the blogosphere and it seems a lot of people are upset about Google's censorship pact with the Chinese government. There are also, sadly, a number of people who just don't get it.

Some say that this is 'better than nothing' (for a response to this argument, see paragraphs 3-5 of my last post). And then there are the 'business columnists' like Thomas Hazlett who suggest that once Google has its foot in the door, there will be a wearing away of controls which will eventually lead to greater freedoms. Google's Andrew McLaughlin seemed to imply the same notion in 'code'. In other words, he made a statement phrased in a particular way such that he means to suggest this to Americans while not making it obvious to the Chinese. He said,

"We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China..."

Very interesting. McLaughlin was making this statement in defense of Google's recent move. But why would the statement that Google can help in technological innovation and development in China be something you'd say in this context? It seems to me he is suggesting that "meaningful and positive contributions" and "pace of development in China" means democratic and human rights reforms, but if asked about it by the Chinese, he can refer to the literal meaning of the words in the sentence.

I think McLaughlin and Hazlett may be right, and I sincerely hope they are. But this, nevertheless, amounts to nothing more than a rationalization for taking part in evil to make money. What they are saying here is that the Chinese government may end up being foiled, despite Google helping them, simply because of the nature of how oppression in the face of change works. It's like making some money on the side by giving aid to a fleeing murderer under the rationale that murderers are usually caught anyway. If it should turn out that Google/China find freedoms and information have someday spread despite themselves, it will be to the credit of the Chinese people - it will not absolve Google of their misdeeds.

Other things I've read referred to what an 'agonizing' decision this was on the part of Google management and how they thought long and hard about this for a long time. McLaughlin said it was an "excruciating" decision.

That's all fine and good, but what matters is what the final decision was. When and where did it suddenly become ok to do evil acts as long as one 'thinks long and hard about it' before doing them? In fact, it might have been better if Google's act was haste and not considered well. But to say that they gave it much thought and after considering it carefully, chose evil is even worse.

One last thing about Google being a 'company'. Many have said that Google is a company and is amoral. As I said in my last post, Google is made up of individuals who are human beings first. But in addition to that point, we now live in a society where corporations are considered legally to have all the rights as an individual. This is how they are able to lobby lawmakers and wield unequaled power and influence over the government. Well, if they are to be considered individuals, that means I can also personally hold them ethically accountable as I would an individual. You can't have your cake and eat it too; claiming individual status with rights but not with moral responsibility.

Now, I'm not one to boycott much. I have serious doubts about the efficacy of most boycotts (although some have admittedly worked well). Besides that, I realize that people have to live as they will and its unrealistic to expect much outside that range of comfort. Many online have made similar points about how they thought boycotts were stupid or wouldn't work.

But what I've decided is that I am changing my search engine of choice - not because others are or aren't doing it and not because I think a boycott will have some large-scale effect. It wouldn't matter if I'm the only one in the world not using Google; I am doing it because it's the right thing to do.

Aside from that, it is also an incredibly easy thing to do. There are many, many search engines out there, and many other places to get email and news. Here are some search engine alternatives...

GoodSearch (see below)
Ask Jeeves

(note: many of these are owned by the other, and may even be connected to Google, I'm no expert. Please feel free to share this information and/or other search engine alternatives.)

Update: August 23, 2006:
There is another search alternative I've just learned of called GoodSearch, which I've added to the list above. This search engine will donate $0.01 to The Institute for Humanist Studies for each search conducted from its site. I read that GoodSearch is 'powered by' Yahoo, which has its own set of problems, so I guess it's a balance of good/bad. :)

Update: June 7, 2006:
Google Reconsidering?


  1. I believe Hotbot is owned by google these days, or at least mirrors their search results. Some good "indie" up-and-comers are (open source search) and

  2. Thanks Chris. I've added those to the list. :)

  3. AltaVista is now owned by Yahoo... (Yahoo owns Overture who in turn owns AltaVista)... and Yahoo, of course, is one of the bigger offenders in China.

  4. Thanks for the info Number6, I've removed AltaVista from the list. Be seeing you. :)