Friday, January 27, 2006

To my knowledge, the Chinese internet was always tightly controlled and restricted. Companies like Sun Microsystems and Cisco ironically already have provided the infrastructure that allows the Chinese Government to hold the reins of the network in their hands, through the agency of a few central nodes.

So now Google says that it will comply in censoring Chinese internet searches. The interesting thing is that it offers a perfectly capitalist reason for doing this, which could be seen as being dressed up in humanitarian clothes- it is better to have limited access, than no access at all. Google made it sound like it was allowing a few evils instead of everything evil. But given its web giant status, it seems to have taken this opportunity to bestow a benefit of doubt upon itself; in saying that at least some access is permissible and hence should be allowed, it is saying what appears as a logical humanitarian statement. Is it really that, or the more mundane goal of making some profits instead of none at all? After all, in the search phrase related advertising that appears on Google, how much advertising is going to profit from a search for 'Democracy', than say, a search for Shoes, Computers, Cookery books, or Winter clothes??


Blogger Sumeet said...

I really don't get all the Google-bashing thats been going on you rightly point out, nobody seems to mind Cisco and Sun's infrastructure aiding and abetting a totalitarian government.
The billions of dollars of Chinese wares produced under questionable conditions and financed by a questionable state don't seem to bother us either when we shop at discount retailers.
Why single out Google? Only because this is high-impact news?

12:06 AM  
Anonymous Chetan said...

I think more than the action itself, it is the company which did that has outraged people. Somehow Google itself had built this holier than thou halo about it which has now shattered. People are finding it hard to shed their image of Google and find it hard to digest their favourite benevolent geeky boys next door suddenly treading into a moral muddle.

Besides Google is particularly having it hard from both sides of the aisle. The conservatives are worked up because of perceived help to communism(How can anyone in his 'right' mind can call China communist is another issue) As someone in his blogpost said the same conservatives who are crying hoarse about Google aiding commies have no qualms going gaga over Fox news without a trace of irony. Given Murdoch's deals with China which are more acomodative or in fact supportive of the Chinese regime, they have no right to take a high moral ground at all. The Liberals are outraged because of another issue. They are linking this issue to the fact that our blue eyed boys would never have done anything like this were it not for the evil market forces prevailing on them ever since they have gone public with their IPO. They think somehow the shareholders are holding Page and Brin by the scruff and forcing them to deal with China.

In real world terms whether Google enters Chinese market or not is a non-issue given the fact that whether it entered or not would hardly have made any difference to freedom in China. It was not as if Chinese government was going to wake up one day and lament, 'Oh look! We have deprived our population of so much information through Google because of our repressive policies. Its time we change.' In a globalised economy it is impossible to be consistent and morally right about corporations dealings with countries which how shall we say are currently out of favour. If you really are that outraged by the lack of freedom in China choke their economy till they acquiesce. But that would bring down an economic slowdown everywhere. As a company expands this is bound to happen and earlier we get used to this the better.

Check this essay. It dwells on the topic of companies and moral responsibility beautifully and in an even handed manner. It deals with corporate philanthropical initiatives and tainted money, particularly about Harward University accepting grants from Exxon whose interests in South Africa were construed as abetting the aparthied regime. I think the same logic that the author explains applies to Google's case.

2:50 AM  

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