Friday night topic: Google and censorship in China

— 7:47 PM on January 27, 2006

In the grand scheme of things, the folks at Google have long seemed like the good guys, generally keeping it real while successfully upstaging the beast of Redmond. But Google's ambitions grew, and now they've agreed to censor search results in China in exchange for permission to operate there. According to reports, the Chinese government will determine the scope and nature of the censorship:

To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country's government finds objectionable. Google will base its censorship decisons on guidance provided by Chinese government officials.

Although China has loosened some of its controls in recent years, some topics, such as Taiwan's independence and 1989's Tiananmen Square massacre, remain forbidden subjects.

Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted "don't be evil" as a motto. But management believes it's a worthwhile sacrifice.

Has Google run afoul of its original motto in its quest to expand its business? What responsibility do companies like Google have to protect human rights—or at least not be complicit in human rights violations? Is Google somehow right in perhaps banking on the idea that economic prosperity and the repression of basic freedoms will ultimately prove incompatible in China? And how quickly do you think we can manage to get TR banned over there?


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