Via Good Morning Silicon Valley, "Google CEO on censoring: 'We did an evil scale'" from InfoWorld has Google CEO Eric Schmidt explaining at the Davos World Economic Forum that Google spent over a year debating what to do on China, including creating an "evil scale" to help with the decision.
Apparently, not being in China at all would have been a 10 on the EvilRank scale while bending to Chinese censorship demands was somewhat less evil than that (ER2? ER7?).
OK, so no actual number range on the scale was outlined by Schmidt, who explained:
"We concluded that although we weren't wild about the restrictions, it was even worse to not try to serve those users at all," Schmidt said. "We actually did an evil scale and decided not to serve at all was worse evil."
So there you have it. Official confirmation that the motto can now be changed from "Don't Be Evil" to "Try Not To Be Evil" or perhaps "Choose The Least Evil."
I'm also getting tired of the entire spin that this was a choice between Google serving users in China or not, some binary decision, some off-on choice Google was faced with. It wasn't. Google has not once suggested that failure to bend to Chinese censorship demands meant that Google would not have been available in China at all.
Yes, China had blocked searches at Google. The Google Blog recently explained this happened to those in China about 10 percent of the time. But that's a far different situation than the suggestion Google was somehow completely inaccessible, and so censorship was the only course that could be followed. In fact, China still allows Google to continue offering an uncensored version at sites other than Google China, such as Google.com. So it clearly wasn't a case that Google couldn't be in China at all.
I've done some more deconstruction of the Google Blog's explanation for the censorship moves at the SEW Forums starting here. Feel free to comment yourself in that thread.