Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Sad Day...

I thought Croaky was right a few weeks ago when he said:
More powerful than any institution, however, is individual power. The way technology is developing, we are progressing toward an Open Source, Free Data world. Open source software like UNIX (which Apple's OS X operating system is built on, as well as most of the servers on the internet) are faster, more secure, and cheaper than proprietary options like Microsoft's offerings. Companies that are too highly dependent on these proprietary systems are in trouble, and ultimately, China will find this out.
Though he noted there that Google was kowtowing to Chinese censorship somewhat, I thought that Google would tell China to stuff it in the long-term. Apparently, I was wrong: (via LGF)

Google has agreed to censor search results in China.

SAN FRANCISCO - Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country’s free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet’s fastest growing market.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to roll out a new version of its search engine bearing China’s Web suffix “.cn,” on Wednesday. A Chinese-language version of Google’s search engine has previously been available through the company’s dot-com address in the United States. ...

To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country’s government finds objectionable. Google will base its censorship decisons on guidance provided by Chinese government officials. Although China has loosened some of its controls in recent years, some topics, such as Taiwan’s independence and 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre, remain forbidden subjects.

Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted “don’t be evil” as a motto. But management believes it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.

“We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China,” said Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s senior policy counsel.

A worthwhile sacrifice?! What, the extra money? I don't understand how it can make positive contributions when it is self-censoring - scratch that. I understand it can make meaningful and positive contributions; but it is limiting how much it truly can contribute, and thereby limiting how much the Chinese can contribute in return. This reminds me of CNN in Iraq, though that was a much bigger problem, as CNN was violating journalistic integrity. Google, as its own company, has the right to make any business decisions it wants, and perhaps this is a good one.

I just think it stinks.

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  1. If Google didn't do it themselves, the powers that be above them would do the job. This way they can warn users of filetered content, and possible use their strength to maintain free speech.

    Or maybe I am just naive and it is all about the money.

    Got to try to find some good in everything!

  2. Nah, it's all about the money. BUT, I have a feeling that in the long run this decision will run very high costs...

  3. Lenin supposedly said that capitalists will sell even the rope used to hang them. I think Google is one of those "useful idiot" capitalists.

    The next useful idiots will be the Republicans in congress who tighten up immigration laws, forcing the Chinese graduate students who would like to stay here in the US to return to China -- where they will enable that country to leap ahead of us in science and technology.

  4. Actually, if only for selfish interests, they won't tighten up immigration laws. The Chinese that come over are a tremendous boost to the US economy, period. The Chinese are currently the ones shooting themselves in the foot.

  5. Ezzie,

    Sad day indeed, but not entirely unexpected. Google is essentially protecting their China market share against Microsoft's MSN search in particular.

    I think it will take some time, but it's worth keeping in mind that technology gets easier and easier to work with and information gets harder and harder to hide. I have faith...

  6. Ezzie,

    Another factor to consider is that these controls put constraints on the Chinese economy, and give Americans and open, free democracies competitive advantage.

    I personally have gained great knowledge by using Google to research ideas and explore the world.

    Faith in capitalism, faith in democracy, faith in open markets...

  7. True, but only to an extent. China is so huge, and has a much more focused educational system. They're able to stay ahead on sheer numbers.