Google doing evil

Google senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin has blogged a defence of Google’s decision to set up a Google China service which will censor out terms unacceptable to the Chinese Government.

Russell Brown has also said he feels somewhat sorry for Google as other companies are already doing this. As Russell points out though when your company motto is “Don’t Be Evil” then you can’t complain if people criticise you for being evil.

To put it more bluntly I totally expect Microsoft to censor information in return for market share in China. Google though has built up its brand and profile as supporting freedom of information everywhere and this week is for me the week they have jumped the shark and I go from being a passionate fan to merely a customer.

McLaughlin defends Google’s decision by saying that Chinese users were unable to access many of their existing international services such as Google News and that setting up a local service will provide more information to them. This is duplicitous as it misses the point that Google is not responsible for China blocking access to some of its services but is responsible for agreeing to suppress information on its own servers.

The defence of respecting local laws and comparing it to very minor restrictions in Germany on Nazi memorabilia is also flawed. Germany does not block its citizens from using the international Google. A better comparison would be to ask whether Google would now agree to set up an Iranian version which blocks all articles relating to the Holocaust.

I regard suppressing of a citizen’s right to access public information as a heinous crime. It is more important to me than the right to vote. If I had to choose between losing the right to vote and losing the right to freely access news and information, I would choose the former.

Google had a chance of being a beacon of free speech and information by refusing to censor on behalf of the Chinese Government. Yes Chinese users would have remained unable to access many of their services but by doing so it would have encouraged more people in China to support a change in their political culture so they could access Google freely.

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