Google's China Censorship Non-Apology Apology Really A Swipe At The Press

from the try-that-again dept

Over the weekend, the Guardian published an article that’s been getting plenty of attention, claiming that Google’s co-founders have admitted that their decision to censor results in China almost exactly a year ago was “a net negative” from a business perspective. This is leading to some headlines and some blogs suggesting that Google was “regretting” the decision to open up a censored site in China. However, as you read more of the details you realize they don’t regret launching the censored Chinese site — they regret the way the press covered it. It wasn’t an apology, it was a swipe at the press for focusing in on the censorship. Of course, that really should go back to the folks at Google, since they did a poor job of explaining their position, and went on for weeks unable to adequately explain their reasoning.

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Comments on “Google's China Censorship Non-Apology Apology Really A Swipe At The Press”

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Andrew W (user link) says:

But in their defense, what they complain about regarding the press is that it used overly simplistic headlines to introduce a very complicated debate. That’s a valid complaint.

Brin and Page have a lot of faith in their users’ ability to circumvent censorship. It’s possible that while they told the Chinese “Go ahead, censor Google,” they believed getting Google search into China would ultimately lead to less censorship. After all, the Chinese government would censor any search engine’s results–why not get the most robust engine in there, with one of the biggest communities of developers committed to showing people how to get around censorship?

That’s a nuanced, high-level debate that can’t be captured in a headline like “Google lets China censor search.”

Liz says:

Re: Google China Censorship

I’m a big Google fan, but I also spend a lot of time in China teaching. The debate is complicated, but ultimately the Chinese (and the Saudis who also have very high levels of internet censorship) are expert at cracking down on users in a wide variety of ways.

To think that the “free market” of techie users will be able to circumvent police state censorship is, sadly, naive. Google got snookered. The Chinese are expert at seducing foreign investors – been doing it since Marco Polo.

See my recent law review article on internet censorship in China. 39 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 865 (2006).

johnboy says:

Google IS evil

Face it, the “Don’t do evil” stuff was a lie from the beginning.

You need only think back to the early days when Google was lying to the press about how they would never have adds on their search pages. They were working on GoogleAds at the time. They knew they would. They didn’t have to say anything to the media about ads if they wanted to keep it a secret. Instead, they chose to lie.

Now they choose to assist a totalitarian government oppress its people. Their only regret is that others don’t find their profit motive a compelling reason to aid evil.

Bumbling old fool (profile) says:

Re: Google IS evil

You need only think back to the early days when Google was lying to the press about how they would never have adds on their search pages. They were working on GoogleAds at the time.

No, thats very different. Google said it would never put ads into the search results. (paid search rankings)

I don’t think google ever said it wouldnt put unobtrosuive, non-deceptive ads off to the side.

I can’t think of anyone who felt betrayed or lied to by the appearance of adwords.

Steak says:

No, it IS the media

The problem is not Google’s PR. Or at least, not exclusively PR. Any news journalist will distort anything they can get their hands on to make an exciting story. The headline “Google opens up search meeting China’s censorship demdnds” will not be ‘exciting’. An ‘exciting’ headline would read more like “OMG Google censors!!!!!1111!11eleven!!!1”. And that’s about the extent most people hear/understand it. Maybe their only REAL problem is getting the average idiot to realize that China is the evil one. The Chinese government is evil. More evil than Microsoft and more evil than the MPAA. Don’t lose sight of who’s demanding “censor or no search engine in my country”.

But then again what do I know.

Bumbling old fool (profile) says:

No, it really is that simple.

Google has engaged in censoring the internet at the behest of the chinese government.

They did not do this to liberate the people of China from their oppressors, but to make money off of it. They couldnt make a full fledged entry into the market unless they accepted the terms of the entry. They made their decision. They decided the money they would make by censoring the internet for the government was worth it.

I don’t care what flavor of spin you put on that, its evil.

The “do no evil” mantra is dead. Now its “please don’t report on our evils, or else we will blame our evil blunders on the press”.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

3) Of course users will get around the firewall eventually, or China will end up wasting so much time and effort on it that they miss something really big (like a famine) and a whole lot of senoir officials go to re-learn the virtues of peasant labour

4) China got soundly beaten in the Opium wars, the purpose of which was to allow the British to sell stuff to the Chinese, so that the west could buy goods from China without crippling thier own economies. That worked, and opium became a huge problem in China.

9) Of course they did it to make money, but that does not mean that they are not doing some good. After all, censorship can only be retrospective, meaning that people will already have read the offending page before it gets blocked. If China tries to use a white-list, there is still teh problem of pages being updated, so they would have to invest $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ in data centres to host all acceptable pages for use by the public.

10) You appear to be right.

11) Ys, but everyone will still be using google search, because it is more convienient than a clustering engine for a simple, quick search, and anyway they provide the best free e-mail and have domination of the ad market.

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