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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Google Tries to Defend Itself, Fails

There has been a massive outcry against Google's unethical partnership with the Chinese government. People around the world, online and off, are shocked that a company claiming to be for the free flow of information and operating while not doing evil would hypocritically
push Chinese propaganda and censor the truth. Over 15,000 letters have been sent by Tibetans and Tibet supporters to executives at Google through Students for a Free Tibet's online action.

Not surprisingly, Google has posted a very defensive justification of their actions on their blog. Google senior policy counsel/shill Andrew McLaughlin penned the defense (you can email him here), which, not surprisingly is filled with hypocrisy, misinformation, half-truths, and a hell of a lot of crap. Let's get to the heart of the matter right away:
Filtering our search results clearly compromises our mission. Failing to offer Google search at all to a fifth of the world's population, however, does so far more severely. Whether our critics agree with our decision or not, due to the severe quality problems faced by users trying to access Google.com from within China, this is precisely the choice we believe we faced. By launching Google.cn and making a major ongoing investment in people and infrastructure within China, we intend to change that.
You don't say. I agree whole-heartedly with McLaughlin's assessment that the launch of google.cn compromises their corporate mission. Of course another way to describe this assessment would be to say that the censorship of search results is hypocritical, immoral, and soundly anti-democratic. While google.cn may be an improvement for users in China when it comes to searches for cupcakes and daisies, it does nothing to help people inside a totalitarian state access the information that they want and need to make political changes and bring actual freedom to Tibet and China.
And yes, Chinese regulations will require us to remove some sensitive information from our search results. When we do so, we'll disclose this to users, just as we already do in those rare instances where we alter results in order to comply with local laws in France, Germany and the U.S.
Gee, that's nice of you. I'm sure a Tibetan at an internet cafe in Lhasa with government printed signs reading "Do not use Internet for any political or other unintelligent purposes" doesn't know that the Chinese Communist Party doesn't want them reading information on Tibetan independence, the Dalai Lama or the Tiananmen Square massacre. They probably haven't realized by the lack of jobs available to Tibetan language speakers or the constant flow of Han Chinese settlers that they're living in a land occupied by the military of a totalitarian regime. No, you, Google will have the good will to tell them that they are AND that you're the ones preventing them from finding the information they're literally dying to get.
Obviously, the situation in China is far different than it is in those other countries; while China has made great strides in the past decades, it remains in many ways closed. We aren't happy about what we had to do this week, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information.
Was that you just now calling for the overthrow of the CCP, Andy? It sure sounded like it. How, exactly, does providing more advanced censorship technology advance people's access to information?
Our continued engagement with China is the best (perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.
The only way to spread information is to not spread information? I'm really lost here. If I suggested the only way for Google to make money for its investors is to go bankrupt, I think you'd question my logic too.
We're in this for the long haul. In the years to come, we'll be making significant and growing investments in China. Our launch of google.cn, though filtered, is a necessary first step toward achieving a productive presence in a rapidly changing country that will be one of the world's most important and dynamic for decades to come.
No, I'm sorry, but you're just flat out wrong. The partnership in censorship and propaganda is NOT the necessary first step to the end of censorship and propaganda. A first step would be for Google to refuse to do the Chinese government's dirty work for them. A first step would be for Google to announce it would redirect all searches of "politically sensitive" terms on google.cn to the uncensored google engines outside of China -- allowing Tibetans and Chinese alike to know what the whole free world knows. The first step to democracy is not tyranny and the first step to freedom is not jail. I cannot for the life of me grasp why McLaughlin thinks the first step to free information is censorship and the first step to true information is propaganda.
We ultimately reached our decision by asking ourselves which course would most effectively further Google's mission to organize the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible. Or, put simply: how can we provide the greatest access to information to the greatest number of people?
I was surprised McLaughlin went so far without invoking the White Man's Burden as a justification for Google's hypocritical censorship program. Thank God the executives at Google spent so much time in their corporate board room plotting how they help all those millions of poor, under-informed people in Tibet and China. Where oh where would we be without Google's noble brand of imperialistic racism?

The problem with this is Google isn't pushing information, they're pushing a product. Their product, like all other products, is sold to make money, not to inform the ignorant. Their previous Chinese language website was recognized as the #1 customer-rated search engine in China and held a strong second in the Chinese market. Now they have the full support of the Chinese government in exchange for the most advanced propaganda and censorship machine available to people inside Tibet and China.

Contrary McLaughlin's wishes, information that is "universally useful and accessible" in the North America or Europe or Japan is no closer to being accessible in Tibet and China today than before the launch of google.cn. Not the information that matters, not the information people need to place themselves in their political situation. When 1.3 billion people cannot access information about their country's political history and status, there has been no progress. Google hasn't made information more available, they've made it less accessible by systematizing the work of China's internet censors into an easy to use platform.

Propaganda has never been so easy to spread. The truth has never been so easy to hide. This is Google's doing and their actions are truly a study in hypocrisy, cowardice, greed, and delusion.

Email Google's corporate leadership responsible for these outrageous actions (click here).
Email Andrew McLaughlin to tell him what you think about his bogus defense of hypocrisy (click here).

3 Comments:

  • At 2:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Calling all freedom fighters:

    Here's an invitation to help "Break the Great Firewall"

    http://blog.outer-court.com/forum/18190.html

    Check it out and see if you can help!

     
  • At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Chinese people can still access google.com. It just will not be as reliable as google.cn.

     
  • At 2:52 AM, Anonymous Sgrolkar said…

    Hope you see this...
    Orkut...a subsidiary of google does not offer Tibetan as a language in the drop down list that includes: among others
    Ainu, Cherokee, Esperanto (!!), Scots Gaelic,

    For that matter they dont include Burmese either....
    Oh ho...ignorance is bliss Google on...

     

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