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.

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Comments on “Will Google Pull Out Of India, Australia And Other Countries Over Internet Censorship?”

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Mille Sabords (profile) says:

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.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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….

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

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.

interval says:

Re: 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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: 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?

interval says:

Re: 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.

:) says:

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.

:) says:

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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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.

Pangolin (profile) says:

Re: Let them start their own Google..


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.

Joe says:

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.

interval says:

Re: 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.

Jimr (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.


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.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: 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.

The AC from the post above Mike's reply says:

Re: 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).

Joe says:

Re: 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.


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.

Naveen Kapur (user link) says:

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.

justin says:

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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

mak says:

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

interval says:

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.

Uno says:

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?

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