Does Google’s “Dont Be Evil” Apply in China?

I noted in an earlier posting that Google is a company with a rep for having some pretty high ideals. Their corporate ethics motto is straightforward: “Don’t Be Evil.”

Now Google is facing criticism — well, mixed reviews — for its decision to comply with the Chinese government’s request that the Chinese-language version of Google censor search results. See this story from Wired News: Google Gagged, but There’s Hope

Google’s decision to filter sensitive topics from web searches in China is a major triumph for the regime’s campaign to have the internet censor itself, observers said Thursday, amid mounting criticism of the move.

However, scholars who study the internet in China said free speech advocates still had room for optimism. While China’s grip on web content appears to be tightening, communist authorities can’t stop the overall trend toward access to more information and greater transparency, they said.

Google said its decision to launch a sanitized version of its famed search engine using China’s “.cn” suffix was aimed at reaching China’s massive internet audience. It defended the move as a trade-off.

The rationale is one I’ve seen before, for other instances of acceding to “local standards” that violate either a company’s home country’s standards or international standards. The idea is that progressive companies from progressive countries are likely to have a net positive effect on local standards. In Google’s case, the argument would look like this: look, if Google is operating IN China, that can’t not be a good thing. Google is all about making information — all information — available, easily, to everyone with net access. So, Google will inevitably result in freer information in China.

I gotta admit, I’m tempted by this rationale. Another way of looking at it: Chinese citizens won’t have any LESS access to information now that Google (even a censored Google) is available there. Only time will tell, but I’d lay money on Google’s presence having, overall, a positive influence on the openness of Chinese society.

1 comment so far

  1. […] Does Google’s “Dont Be Evil” Apply in China? (January 27, 2006) […]

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