New York Times Magazine's Deep Look At Google, Censorship & China

China White points to an excellent New York Times Magazine piece, Google in China: The Big Disconnect, looking at how Google's entry into the country from 2000 onward, touching along the way on Yahoo and Microsoft as well.

The story covers suggested accusations that Baidu got China to block Google in 2002 (which Baidu denies) and how the Chinese government cowers companies into doing more self-censorship than they probably need to.

Google's Sergey Brin again repeats that going into China wasn't so much a business decision as getting better information about many topics to people, making the compromise worthwhile.

As for the censoring, more details already hinted at before on how Google itself has to do the Chinese government's dirty work. They don't get told what to censor. They have to guess -- and so they guess by seeing what web sites are blocked by the Chinese government's own firewall.

There's nice detail on how Google put out its own disclosure on search results pages without asking for permission (so why not make it stronger, then, as I suggested before?). In February, we saw some pressure develop on whether that disclosure should be removed.

The Chinese blogger Zhao Jing, who had his Microsoft-hosted blog removed, puts Google at the top of the list of search companies he thinks are working ethically there, followed by Microsoft and then Yahoo, which he calls a "sell out." Yahoo just took another pummeling this week over accusations email it handed over helped jail a third activist.

Overall, it's a great article and definitely helps you understand more about what those in China expect and know about the censorship. But I'm afraid it still doesn't leave me feeling any better about Google caving in the way they did. I still read it as more a business move and will always wonder if China really would have changed more on the censorship front if they'd stood up to the demands. After all, if "Don't Be Evil" Google won't, who will?

We've had Google China head Kai-Fu Lee say how important insisting on and following principles should be. In the public speaking training video of Google CEO Eric Schmidt that's making the rounds, we have him saying how important conflict and tolerance to other opinions are. Yet still caved in on both principles and tolerance when it came to doing business in China.