Google China

Now, it would be very hypocritical of me to complain about US government intrusion into internet search results, if I do not also utterly condemn Google’s decision to censor its Chinese site. However, even if I did not draw that parallel, I could never be more hypocritical than Google itself. The company who did indeed stand up to the aforementioned US government interference, has sold its morals down the Yangtze River. This is appalling blow to everyone who values freedom of expression, especially as the act comes from a company who emphasises its ethical policies. Via Blairwatch, we find that censorship directly contradicts Google’s admirable company policy:

Google does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results.

Not any more.

Perhaps Google should be subjected to some kind of boycott. Simply refusing to use the search engine would be almost impossible for most people, as it is such a ubiquitous tool (it’s even integrated into my Safari browser). Likewise, too many people use Blogger for this to be a viable proposition. It would also be counter-productive if our aim is the free flow of communication around the globe. CuriousHamster hints that he will remove the Adwords bar from his site, thus sacrificing some income from his blog. Will others follow suit?

Not having any Google Adwords on my site at the moment, I cannot contribute to this tactic, but I can suggest another: a tablespoonful of Culture Jam. My first effort at a tweaked Google logo is above. Feel free to copy and pass it on, either by pulling it off the page above, or via this link if you prefer. Let me know in the comments if you need alternative file formats or background colours. Lovely.

Update: Down In the comments, John suggests a very good article on the issue. Google does inform users that their search on Google.cn will be blocked. This definitely doesn’t excuse the hypocrisy of going against a stated company policy though, nor does the fact that they are making money in a country through a censored search engine. I’m not sure that providing some search results is better than providing no search results. That seems to be a tacit endorsement of the system to me, especially as money is being made. As Danny Sullivan says, it would be better if they weren’t there at all.

Another Update: I just saw an AOL advert that used a clip of the man with shopping bags in front of the Tiannamen Square tanks, with a voice-over “The only place where freedom of speech is a reality”… Hmmph.

6 thoughts on “Google China

  1. What people fail to remember is that, once a company becomes publically listed, thern profit is the only business ethic that you can have. As a Director, you are required, by law, to maximise profits for the shareholders.

    DK

  2. A very pertinent point: perhaps it is not their decision to censor which is at fault (which is, after all, not breaking any chinese laws) but the notion of “Do No Evil” which I beleive was their tag-line. The film The Corporation accuses the very concept of a company as being inherently psychotic in make-up, because by definition it is out to make money, and money alone. It calls into question the whole idea of Corporate Social Responsibility.

  3. When I use Google, I don’t pay for the privilege. And I never click on any sponsored links out of principle. So how will my not using google register with their bank balance, I wonder?

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