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Does Google really regret censoring information in China?

A year ago I wrote about Google’s hypocritical decision to help the Chinese government with censoring information in China. There was no doubt that this decision was made based on pure business reasons. They sold themselves out to the Chinese government expecting to be able to gain (more) access to the big market in China, even against their own principles. A quote from my previous post:

Don’t be evil? Sure, but everyone forgot to ask the important question. Don’t be evil to whom exactly? It appears the answer is: “To our shareholders.” Just like I wrote before about Microsoft, Google is now a corporation, and they are going to have to keep shareholders happy. That stock price has got to keep going up! Doing anything to make shareholders upset is suicide.

So do you think that Google, similar to Microsoft and Yahoo, are going to want to risk losing business in China? I doubt it. For all their good intentions, Larry and Sergey don’t have the balls to truly not be evil.

Google thinks, and/or would like us to think, that they are helping the Chinese people by at least trying to provide them with the information they are allowed to view, instead of denying them access to all information, but in the process, they are willingly helping the Chinese government with committing a crime against their people. They are actually helping the government there to restrict freedom of speech and to deny the people there their basic rights.

So much for “Don’t be evil.” Google PR are making all kinds of sharp turns right now trying to explain their way out of this and making them look good, but it won’t work.

And it will only go downhill from here. Once they start doing business there and start to rely on it, the Chinese government will have more power over them and will get them to agree to even more things.

Not very long after that, Google started waking up to reality in China. Sergey Brin, one of Google’s founders, had to admit that “Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense.” A quote:

As Brin noted:

“Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense.”

It made more sense from the start. It seems that they are taking such a position now only because the Chinese government is coming with even more, and quite likely far reaching, demands which could explain why they suddenly started blocking more of Google’s services.

Ofcourse, I saw that coming way in advance (I seem to be saying this more often these days in my posts), as you can see from the previous quote above.

And very recently, almost a year later, both of Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, admitted again that the decision to censor information in its search engine in China was bad for the company:

Google’s decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

Google, launched in 1998 by two Stanford University dropouts, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, was accused of selling out and reneging on its “Don’t be evil” motto when it launched in China in 2005. The company modified the version of its search engine in China to exclude controversial topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre or the Falun Gong movement, provoking a backlash in its core western markets.

Asked whether he regretted the decision, Mr Brin admitted yesterday: “On a business level, that decision to censor… was a net negative.”
The company has only once expressed any regret and never in as strong terms as yesterday. Mr Brin said the company had suffered because of the damage to its reputation in the US and Europe.

Last year in a speech in Washington Mr Brin admitted the company had been forced to compromise its principles to operate in China. At the time, he also hinted at a potential reversal of its stance in the country, saying “perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense”.

And ofcourse we all know that the reversal never came. They still seem to be happily censoring information in China and doing business with the Chinese government as much as possible. Also pay special attention to the following remark by Brin:

“On a business level, that decision to censor… was a net negative.”

This is a clear indication of how they evaluate these decisions at Google. “On a business level.” So when the Google founders talk about the decision being bad for Google, it’s purely on a business level. They could care less about ethics, about doing what’s right, about living up to their “Don’t be evil” slogan, and about principles. As long as things are good for business, they’ll go ahead with it no matter what. And this was ofcourse their motivation to help censor information at the very beginning as I wrote. But when they don’t get what they want from the Chinese government, then suddenly the “principled approach makes more sense.”

So remember, it is very important to know why Google regrets censoring information in China. Not because they came to see that it was against their “Don’t be evil” slogan and that it was a bad thing to do, but because they didn’t get the business results from it that they hoped to get.

And when you know this, it is also easy to understand why there has since been no reversal of that decision. Since this is purely about business, a reversal would mean losing even more business, so that’s not an option. If this was about doing what’s right, about living up to their false “goody two shoes” image, they would have reversed their decision a year ago already.

So when you hear about how good they are at Google, remember this. Also don’t forget about the many times that they have already been caught censoring information on their main search engine as well. And don’t forget about the fact that they are in bed with Criminals In Action (CIA) and seem to be helping the CIA with a lot of questionable things. I guess it’s a result of accepting money from the CIA to launch the company. Why don’t Page and Brin talk about that?

Google’s “Don’t be evil” slogan officially became the equivalent of Fox News’s “Fair and Balanced” slogan a long while ago.


  1. Karel Donk’s Blog » Blog Archive » On Google VS China: Why Google is now suddenly against censorship in China (15/01/2010)
  2. Karel Donk's Blog » Censorship on the Internet getting worse (09/08/2018)


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