Monday, January 30, 2006
Google has created China's very own Google service. www.google.cn So what's the problem? Google is filtering what sites are returned in a search, based on what the Chinese government says is kosher for the Chinese people to look at. There are two sides to this argument, and both make good cases. First off, Google explains their actions as being necessary. In order to provide any kind of information to the Chinese people, they have to only provide what the government says it can. So Google is taking information that is now hard to find and making it easier to get to. Whether or not Google operates in China, their citizens have access to the same information. Google isn't telling the Chinese that they can't look at this-and-that information; they're just organizing what's already there. So, in this way, Google is doing exactly what it does everywhere else - getting available information together in an organized way and making it easier for people to find what they want. Their basic theory is that limited, easy-to-get-to information (in this case, censored information) is better than limited, hard-to-get-to information. On the other hand, there are plenty of people that are upset that Google is willing to play China's censorship game - because Google is, in effect, censoring what the Chinese people get when they do a search. In fact, the government doesn't give them a list of sites that aren't 'approved,' they give them a list of guidelines. Then Google picks and chooses which websites the searcher will be pointed towards on their quest for information. So Google is censoring what people see online through their search engine. And since part of Google's idealogy includes phrases like "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" then it's easy to see how limiting the information that one gets is counter to the grand scope of "world's information" and "universally accessible." Censoring what a searcher finds is exactly the opposite of universally accessible. Other search engines have done the same thing in China, but none have Google's motto of "Don't be evil.." Google has a point, though, in that their mission statement is to take available information and make it easily accessible. If they want to be able to have a piece of the Chinese market if/when the market ever becomes free-er over there, then they do need to get their toe in the door now. If they wanted to stick to their moral high ground, then they probably shouldn't have caved into China's demands. Of course, some people have already found a way to do what is being called "Hacking Google China." Let's see how long it takes for a patch to be worked up for it. So what do you think - are they doing evil, or not? I tend to not think they're doing anything wrong. They're simply organizing the information that is already available and making it easier to use. And maybe someday soon, everything else will be available too.