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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"Communist Google's" Complicity in China's Censorship Spawning Global Outrage

People around the world woke up today to hear one of the internet's leading companies, Google, had abandoned it's recognition of "the need for information cross[ing] all borders" and partnered with the Chinese government to repress access to information about Tibet, Taiwan, the Falun Gong and other "politically sensitive" issues for people inside Tibet and China. The anger was palpable and seen at news outlets like The Guardian, CNN, The Drudge Report, ABC, Reuters and the Associated Press -- not to mention numerous political and technological blogs.

Google is actively blocking the truth from people inside Tibet and China. It's not just censorship or filtering, but delibrate partnership in the Chinese government's campaign against free speech, against the flow of information, and against the propagation of democratizing ideas and values. Fortunately most of the free world sees Google's move for the hypocrisy that it is. From the Financial Times:
Google on Wednesday came in for some harsh criticism from bloggers, outraged at its decision to set up a censored Chinese version of its website which will block results in order to avoid angering the country’s Communist government. The site will not provide Gmail or other services that will open up its use to unfettered expression.

A quick query on Google’s own blog search service service brought up hundreds of references to the move. A random sample showed that most bloggers were vehemently against the policy...

Jay Nargundkar on Citizens Band reminded Google of three of the “Ten Things” that outline its philosophy: “4. Democracy on the web works, 6. You can make money and my favourite 8. The need for information crosses all borders”...

Many in the blogosphere agreed that Google had now joined other internet companies, such as Yahoo and Microsoft, in selling out their principles for rapid growth and big bucks in China.

“This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night,” said Kean a Canadian blogger on Live Journal.

“Because business with China is so damn lucrative, not even Google is immune to China’s demands for censorship. It’s extremely disappointing that no one is taking a hard stance against China and their ongoing efforts to curb free speech,” he added....

Dave Briggs described Google’s reasons for limiting the Chinese service as “utter nonsense”.

“Google is a search engine, and is measured by it’s reliability and accuracy in searching. If they are deliberately providing a hamstrung performance just to please an authoritarian government, then they are going directly against their very reason for existence. I am not claiming that Google should act as an agent on behalf of subversive groups in China, but to exclude results because of their political content is a disgrace.

“I can only assume that this comes down to revenue. For Google to earn the revenues they can in China they must provide an always-on, reliable service. They are putting money ahead of ethics.”

Yet for all the outrage Google has caused in countries that have the full and uncensored version of their search engine, none of the criticism is viewable on google.cn (via Good Morning Silicon Valley).

"The main story on the Google.cn news site is about the resumption of direct flights between China and Taiwan. There is a lot about a visit by the Saudi King and more discussion of the toxic spill which poisoned a river in north-east China but no, there's no mention of this story about Google. I've been trying all day."

-- Jane Macartney, Beijing correspondent for The Times, finds the first sign of Google's complicity in Chinese censorship -- the omission of any news reporting that complicity.

The whole world is watching Google as it abandons its corporate mission and becomes an active participant in the repression of human freedom. Today is a sad day for China, Tibet, and anyone who works for Google that still values the free search for knowledge through the internet.


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