Google and Social Responsibility in China

Google and Social Responsibility
A few weeks ago, Google made an agreement with the Chinese government to remove specific websites from its search engine in return for getting unblocked access to China’s internet users. You can read more about it in this BBC News article from Jan 25th.

Since the announcement, there has been significant “buzz” in the blogosphere protesting Google’s decision.
Here is a link to the blog of a well known venture capitalist, Brad Feld, who points us to two links:

1. A link to an image search for Tiananmen Square on Google US,
2. A link to an image search for Tiananmen Square on Google China

The results speak for themselves– the US engine returns images of tanks and student demonstrations, while the Chinese engine returns some pretty pictures of the square.

Each day, this Google/China issue seems to get bigger. I just found this parody logo that represents the sentiments expressed by many people online. This logo seems to be catching on and it was recently spotted at demonstrations by exiled Tibetans in India.
Google and Goolag

This is a tough issue to grok, and I think Usher Lieberman says it best in the comments section of Brad Feld’s blog:

I am personally conflicted in my thoughts about Google. On the one hand, I’m a big believer in constructive engagement as the best way to see other societies liberalize. On the other, there’s a really good argument that American companies, NGOs and government in absolutely no way contribute to the suppression of human rights anywhere in the world as doing so limits our own credibility and ability to speak with moral authority. On the moral authority piece, the Chinese government certainly believes (and not without justification) that we are in no moral position to preach to them about human rights and constructive engagement.

In this case I think Google is helping the forces of evil even as it does the admirable work of opening more of the world’s knowledge to more of the world. In so doing, Google risks its brand reputation on a gamble that clearly has great potential rewards (and perils). Only time will tell if this roll of the dice was the right move.

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