Will Google Pull Out Of India, Australia And Other Countries Over Internet Censorship?

from the questions-worth-asking dept

After posting about Google's bold and certainly laudable decision to stop censoring content in China, someone reminded me that it was just a week or so ago that we were writing about how Google was cooperating with the Indian gov't to block "objectionable content." It's worth noting that China, as it has said in the past, is defending its censorship policy by claiming that it is necessary to protect people from objectionable content like pornography, fraud and rumors. So, if that's the case, is Google planning to stop censoring in India, too? Or what about Australia, which announced plans to censor the internet (yet again) last month?

Rebecca MacKinnon is asking basically the same question over at The Guardian, pointing to questionable internet laws that can stifle freedom of expression online in Italy, France and the UK (if the Digital Economy Bill passes). This isn't to knock Google -- as it was a bold move to call an end to censoring results in China -- but it does make you wonder where the principles begin and end. Considering the similarities of what's happening in China to that story about India just last week, it seems that Google might want to clarify when it does and when it does not work with governments to block certain sites.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Mille Sabords (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:08am

    It is not about sensorship nor business

    I develop web sites. Every day, I must reassure a customer that his data is safe. If one day, the FBI tells me it is not, I have no choice but:
    1 - Wake up all my customers.
    2 - Show that I am taking the necessary steps to prevent this.

    Google realized that no one can stop the Law backed, Government sponsored Red Army to spy on the rest of us.

    So they found a way to show their commitment. They are putting my security before their short term profits.

    I command them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:15am

    No, they command you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    paperbag (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:17am

    Re: It is not about sensorship nor business

    What do you command them to do?

    If you meant commend then I agree.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:23am

    Answer to your previous question

    You had previously questioned whether this decision is really being made on principles or if there was something else going on.

    Based on some of what I've read and heard on business/tech sites, this likely has more to do with Google's financial projections in Red China and the competition it has in Baidu then any laudable principles.

    Their PR dept. is just doing a little slight of hand....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:26am

    Like the US don't already censor online content...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Obligatory Saying, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:27am

    Re:

    In Soviet China, Google Commands you!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Simon, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:31am

    Re:

    It's also interesting that the speculation is that the system they DID successfully hack was set-up for US government agencies to allow them to access the email headers (to, from, subject).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:33am

    The reason is not censorship

    Google is threatening cuz gmail was hacked by, presumably, chinese government. I don't think similar thing would happen in India or Australia.

    Internet is censored everywhere. In US/EU it is done through copyright laws. As long it is "reasonable" (notice the double quotes which means it is subjective) I think google will comply.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Re: Answer to your previous question

    Considering their years of happily (somewhat) doing business in China, I too suspect there are more... material conditions that have driven Google to its current stance.

    However, much like the politics of war, raising and cementing a widely accepted (or lauded) moral impetus behind action could very well change the way people think in a positive way. It is almost predetermined that this case will end up being discussed, in some way, publicly by politicians in numerous countries. For me, it would be most welcome if the subject of Free Speech were paid more lip service by politicians and made it to their list of regularly prescribed "talking points".

    Not that I believe there would be a direct, immediate and *real effort by any government to reverse the years of pillaging the core tenants of freedom of speech, but if the subject were given bandwidth... then it is possible a significant amount of "normal" people might take this issue back into their consciousness. Pitchforks and marches *do get government attention... unfortunately the issues of interest on the agenda today seem to me to be more topical than substantial.

    Well.. at least I can always hope.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:54am

    i suppose those other countries don't have the same human right track record that china has.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:57am

    I wonder if China's hacking of Google may have been more successful that Google acknowledges...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    :), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:59am

    Have people stoped buying chinese products?

    I don't think people start to shopping non Chinese just yet.

    If all the market is doing it then it becomes a norm, so some level of censorship is already becoming a reality in the world.

    People are just looking the other way in this respect, and many don't care unless it happens to them and if people on the top are careful enough it will not have a great impact because people just don't care.

    About Google, according to their blog, they started the investigation because they noted that someone was trying to steal some IP property from them and I assume those are business secrets and engineering stuff and the rest they discovered after and are using that as a PR since they feel it is better to pull out of a market that isn't secure for their assets in some manner. The public was not the primary concern for them from what I read or I could just be wrong in interpreting what it was written.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    :), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:02am

    Have people stoped buying chinese products?

    Sorry forgot the conclusion.

    Then the conclusion is Google will not pull out of other countries because the primary reason to do it in China is because they suspect the Chinese government is involved in industrial espionage and unfair tactics and that they can't really trust that partner.

    But I'm speculating.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Shawn (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:04am

    it is the Daemon. http://thedaemon.com/ ;)

    Excellent book. And I though of Techdirt when in the second book (Freedom tm) the government/quasi government uses Intellectual Property laws to hide the truth from the public :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:05am

    Re:

    "i suppose those other countries don't have the same human right track record that china has."

    Er, India doesn't get the press China gets at the moment, which likely is because they don't yet pose the economic threat to the US that China does, but India track record on human rights ain't a shining example either. Caste system anyone?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Doge (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:15am

    Let them start their own Google..

    Well if China, UK, Italy, France, India have some ideas to prevent the free flow of information, let them block Google (USA) and start their own - no one will use them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Joe, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:36am

    Not a fan of this post. Google took this position because they were working in good faith with the government and then that government, in all likelihood, tried to hack them.

    Every country has mud on it's record. Some worse than others. Google's position is not based on the single factor of a countries freedom of speech or human rights record. It's that combined with their hostile actions against the company. That's where they draw the line.

    Well done to Google on this issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:39am

    Re: Let them start their own Google..

    China already did. It's called Baidu and has always been more popular than Google in China.

    But I agree with your sentiment. Google needs to adhere to its policy of do no evil, and act like an unbiased search engine, censor nothing, and let governments who don't like it block them.

    China is a good start, but Google has a LONG way to go, and a lot of sins to make atonement for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Pangolin (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Re: Let them start their own Google..

    Wrong.

    Google was/is a minority player in China.

    Baidu is the search engine of choice for various reasons and remains censored.

    gmail is something else.

    Gmail was used as a tool of the Chinese Government to crach down on it's citizens.

    I believe this is what Google cannot stomach and they are retaliating in the only way they can.

    Until they are blocked - the citizens that use google will get unfiltered results. Good for them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Shell, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:45am

    How many Americans are working with and for Google in China? The PRC isn't well known for its human rights...I'm a little concerned for the safety of US citizens there. If they're lucky the worst that will happen is they'll be nudged onto the next flight back to the states.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Jimr (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 11:03am

    It is hard to compete when the government is allegially stealing your business code and potentially giving it to your biggest state run competition, Baidu, or selling it to Yahoo and/or Bing.

    The only way for Google to gain market share away from Baidu is to give the users their actual desired search results rather than the state filtered results.

    It will be an interest story to follow - Google the power house PR and Advertising company verses a the Chinese Government dictatorship in the guise a communist government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 11:06am

    Google probably caught wind that Baidu is sponsored by the Politboro, and thus will always have preferential treatment. Though, I would love to see Google pull out of Australia just to show those damn idiots how close their hewing towards the Chinese internet policy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 11:39am

    while i don't always agree with techdirt posts, i read this site because of how well informed the posts are. i can disagree because of the intellegence behind the post.

    this one, however, is horribly misinformed. censurship has nothing to do with what is going on with google in china.

    slashdot just posted an article nearly confirming the chinese government's involvement in repeated hack attempts on gmail.

    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/01/14/1637251

    this is what the fuss is about. not censorship. not some other search engine's popularity. it is about google being attacked. google is forcing the issue into the public by talking of pulling out.

    uncensoring their search? that is just part of the game. you break the rules by attacking us? fine, we break the rules by allowing your people to see anything they want.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 11:49am

    Re:

    I was just about to start YELLING this same information about the Chinese Government attacks but thanks for getting there first.
    Techdirt, how could you miss this story? You played the same "hypocrite" card instead of getting to the real interesting part of the story. Better luck next time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 11:51am

    Re:

    this one, however, is horribly misinformed. censurship has nothing to do with what is going on with google in china.

    Then Google shouldn't have claimed it was about censorship.

    this is what the fuss is about. not censorship. not some other search engine's popularity. it is about google being attacked. google is forcing the issue into the public by talking of pulling out.

    Again, this is probably true. But if that's the case, they shouldn't have claimed it was about the censorship.


    uncensoring their search? that is just part of the game. you break the rules by attacking us? fine, we break the rules by allowing your people to see anything they want.


    Yes, I absolutely agree that this is what is happening -- but they presented it as if it had to do with not giving in to censorship. This post is calling that bluff and showing that we actually know that it's not because of censorship that this was done.

    I'm sorry if it required reading between the lines.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Naveen Kapur, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 11:56am

    Google in China / India - What are we talking about ?

    Belonging to India what I feel is that everyone might not be aware of the fact that China and India are 2 very different countries with a very very different mindsets.

    Indian's are as free as China can never think of.
    Censored Internet is out of the question in India. It will never happen.

    As far as Human Rights are concerned, India might not have a shining example, but has proved to be more effective now than ever before.

    Censored Internet only means more politics online.

    I guess governing the physical/non-tech people wasn't enough for the govt.'s to control that they now want a share in the Internet media to manipulate information.

    Google being the giant in the search engines, I believe is now a handsome target for the politicians who want control - at least in their own country (Google China/Google India).

    If Google agrees to censor content, I believe its huge loss they might have to carry on thier shoulders for a very long time from these countries.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    The AC from the post above Mike's reply, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re:

    Google obviously wants to stay in China otherwise they would have blamed the government directly for the attacks (publicly). By "going to" the old argument of "censorship" it allows the Chinese to save face - (important in Chinese society) rather than calling them out as a subversive government (it's hard to take 'backsies' on that one).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    justin, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 12:00pm

    Google's motivation

    Reasons for Google to pull out of China:
    1) minority player
    2) not generating the expected top line growth
    3) Chinese gov't quit playing nice
    4) heightened potential threat

    Public's perception of why Google is pulling out of China:
    1) Protest China's censorship of the internet and poor human rights practices

    While I'm sure that the people calling the shots at Google feel a little bit better about themselves, the censorship aspect has very little to do with the issue. Bravo Google's PR department (and they really are fantastic at their jobs) for keeping the focus on the moral and ethical shortcomings of China. But in reality, I would guess this move is 48% financial, 48% security, and 4% anything else.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Joe, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Re:

    Actually, they said

    --
    These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn.
    --
    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/new-approach-to-china.html



    From my reading, they're pretty clear that the overriding part of the 'cause' end of this equation is the attack. Yes, censorship is part of this, but they are not standing up and saying that is the only or even the primary reason. The first 6 paragraphs of the post was completely about the security attack. Censorship was only brought up at the end and was clearly placed as part of their reaction, not reason.

    Otherwise, I agree with the initial poster. Great blog, but this one's a miss.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Google's motivation

    All true...

    However, that Google has cast it as a censorship issue, even though it's an obvious and craven PR move, is an opportunity on two counts:

    1) It brings the censorship issue back into the public mind, and we can take that and run with it.

    2) It gives a bit of leverage to encourage other companies (and Google) to take a real anti-censorship position.

    It doesn't matter whether Google's censorship claim is heartfelt or not, what matters is that the fact they made the claim is ammunition which can help us freedom lovers advance the cause.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    interval, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    Re:

    "Like the US don't already censor online content..."

    Well, (and I assume you mean the US Government, as a citizen I certainly don't condone or process any censorship requests), if you are trying to compare US censorship to that of the Chinese, I would have to disagree. For example, I can easily find Rage Against the Machine's music video "Testify" by using Google from the US. How many music videos criticizing Hu Jintao or the NPC (national people's congress, the politburo) do you think I could find using Baidu, from anywhere on the planet?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    interval, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Re:

    Bad example. The caste system is thousands of years old, you don't just throw off that way of thinking like a towel. THOUSANDS of years old. People in countries like the US (with a society at around (roughly) 300 years) have no good reference point for things like that. As human rights go, sure, India could use some lessons but they by no means are the worst.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    interval, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    Re:

    The verbiage they used in describing the issue was "...theft of intellectual property..." in one article I've read.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    interval, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 1:43pm

    Re:

    "I'm a little concerned for the safety of US citizens there."

    Baseless. The PRC isn't about to persecute US Citizens who sale, that would be foolish. We are their best customers. Unless wholesale war breaks out between us (which more than a few people predict, lets hope that never happens) the Chinese will be content to jail the random tourist for some perceived infraction of their fucked-up laws once in a blue moon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    interval, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re:

    "who sale", meant wholesale. Christ I'm tired.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Jay, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Google's motivation

    Hi John,

    I read techdirt everyday at work. I'm just a spectator, not a contender. I just wanted to let you know that you're posts are the best, I personally think that you have more insight then 75% of the posters here, combined.

    Keep it up :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    I hope they do start talking about Australia

    If Google starts squawking about censorship in Australia, it might serve as a kind of wake-up call to our government about just how impotent and misbegotten their censorship intentions really are.

    'Course, the point is kinda moot since Google would have zero control over the kind of filtering that is proposed in Australia (ISP-level blocking of a government controlled blacklist), but since when does logical coherence have anything to do with politics? Bring on the noise.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 4:42am

    Silly post from Mike Masnick

    What a silly post!

    Comparing the situation in China, an authoritarian country with no democratic elections where people who disagree with the governement are harassed then convicted on bogus charges and carted off to a gulag with France, Italy, the UK and Australia.

    Not serious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 15th, 2010 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Google's motivation

    Wow, thanks!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    mak, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 1:56pm

    USA's censorship

    The USA technically does not censor any of the internet. The censorship here is very discrete. If found to be looking at something the government considers "suspicious", you will be arrested and sent to an undisclosed location without a trial. That is the best form of censorship, it is highly effective.

    Have a great day

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    interval, Feb 11th, 2010 @ 7:52am

    Re: USA's censorship

    "The censorship here is very discrete. If found to be looking at something the government considers "suspicious", you will be arrested and sent to an undisclosed location without a trial..."

    Really? not saying it doesn't happen, but, I would think it would've happened to at least one person I knew in my lifetime. At 47 years old, I have yet to hear of one such case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Uno, Nov 5th, 2010 @ 5:32am

    No Surprise

    It's probably because Google works with the CIA that they conveniently refuse to censor in China, and that they construe the "Operation Aurora" hacking incident as government-sponsored without evidence - while censorship and hacking are committed by other countries without any real complaint from Google. In fact, in the "Land of the Free," the government doesn't even need to hack Google for your personal information, Google will simply hand over all the information they've gathered about you upon request. Google states that they "work closely with law enforcement" to track down people, and they've even developed software to help.

    Is any of it surprising? Wasn't Google started with CIA / In-Q-Tel money?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This