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.

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