Friday, March 26, 2010

Google vs. the Great Firewall

What would you say Google stands for?

Innovation … Collaboration … Freedom …

Yep, sounds about right.

Now, how about the Chinese government?

… Something had to give.

And so we have the latest escalation of tensions between Google and China.

Of all the American companies making a go of it in the People's Republic, Google’s venture has been among the most conflicted. Why was a company with a reputation as a progressive leader going along with censorship by a repressive regime?

And yet that’s what they were doing—until recently. Doing business with China was necessary to further Google’s mission of providing fast, free access to information around the world. You have to engage China to change China. Or so the argument went.

But one man’s “constructive engagement” is another’s “destructive capitulation”—especially for somebody like Google founder Sergey Brin, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain.

So Google has dramatically reversed its play-nice approach, opting as of now for a defiant end-run around censorship by redirecting Chinese users of Google through the company’s unfiltered Hong Kong-based site.

Some argue that this is all just a convenient cover for a necessary business decision—pulling out of China because increasingly nationalistic policies and persistent bureaucratic corruption make it nearly impossible for foreign companies to turn a profit.

And that may be, in fact, the bottom line.

Meanwhile, Google certainly benefits from publicly reaffirming its commitment to freedom, innovation and other principles that have made it the global force it is today.

1 comment:

Lighting Cameraman said...

Would I be wrong to assume that if the Chinese government chooses not to renew Google's licence, their next step would be to black list Google.com.hk in their firewall.