Friday night topic: Google and Chinese censorship

— 4:26 PM on October 22, 2004

Word came late last month that Google will be bowing to pressure from the Chinese government and omitting certain results from its search engine when answering queries made from inside of China. This filtering is already active, according to the CNN story linked above:

Dynamic Internet Technology Inc., a research firm striving to defeat online censorship, conducted tests that found Google omits results from the government-banned sites if search requests are made through computers connecting to the Internet in China.

Steered by an identical search request, computers with a United States connection retrieved results from the sites blocked by China.

"That's a problem because the Chinese people need to know there are alternative opinions from the Chinese government and there are many things being covered up by the government," said Bill Xia, Dynamic's chief executive. "Users expect Google to return anything on the Internet. That's what a search engine does."

This is surprising behavior coming from a company whose publicly stated corporate philosophy includes the proclamation that "You can make money without doing evil." The document also states:
It is a core value for Google that there be no compromising of the integrity of our results. We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results. No one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust Google's objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust.
Has Google breached that trust by bowing to Chinese censorship? What other options did the company have, and which ones should it have explored? Discuss.
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