Friday, February 03, 2006

I have been remiss ...

... in my duty by not addressing Google's complicity in the Chinese government's censorship policies. But Thomas Lipscomb hasn't. Here's his E&P piece from last week: The Real Cost of Google's Sellout to China. And here's a follow-up piece of his as well: Congress Should Impose Trade Sanctions on Google-China Deal.
To be fair and balanced, though, here's James V. DeLong's Google Is Right on China.
But here, too, is Bruce Kessler's Can’t We All Get Along?!!!!!!!!!

My problem with DeLong's thesis is that it seems premissed on the assumption that the Chinese Communist Party is primarily concerned with liberalizing Chinese society and not primarily conerned with retaining its hold on power.


  1. For a shrewd view that makes sense of what looks to outsiders like Google's inconsistent statements and policies, that a look at what on observer regards as the REAL Google game.


  2. I think it obvious that the motivation for Google agreeing to directly censor its search results on behalf of the Chinese government is that they do not wish to be left out of a potentially lucrative market rather than having anything to do with a higher principle concerned with the welfare of the Chinese people.

    All Google can do is bring its information up to a border. What filters are subsequently applied to it by sovereign governments is something Google cannot be expected to control. If the Chinese government wants to keep their people in the dark about their country's politics and history, or attempt to rewrite their history, then that's up to the Chinese people to sort out, not Google. This was the position before Google agreed to directly censor search results in China. The objection now is that Google is actively participating in helping the Chinese government to censor information. That steps over the line. It also sets a precedent. If Google can be persuaded to censor information in China, then why not elsewhere? If the US government, for example, felt that they would like to censor certain information in the interests of National Security, they would now have a much stronger case. It does not require a huge leap of the imagination to see that over time, the information that would be deemed a threat to National Security could broaden until our governments had a similar level of control over public access to information as the Chinese government does today. Looking at the situation in those terms, I find it much harder to see things Google's way.

  3. I largely agree, though I think if the US government made such a request, Google would cast itself in the role of defender of free speech, not only because it could get away with doing so, but also because it could get away with doing so without any loss of revenue.

  4. True. After all, Google are currently refusing to give the US government access to their databases and claiming their compliance would threaten trade secrets is their principal line of defence which, for the moment anyway, appears to be working.

    I think that if the US government introduced legislation that sought to censor search results today and Google fought it based on freedom of speech, they would more than likely win. In five or ten years however, they might not. Who knows what legislation is coming down the pike. It worries me a little that the precedent they have set for themselves in China today will still be valid in the future.

  5. I think that's a good point. And eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty.