Google gets it wrong in China

Glenn Judah, Co-Editor

The first line on the Google Corporation Information page reads, “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Mission failed.

Google should never have censored their Internet search program for the Chinese market. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, knew that his company would have to play by China’s rules in order to gain access to their economy. Schmidt is quoted in Business Week Online saying, “We concluded that although we weren’t wild about the restrictions, it was even worse to not try to serve those users at all.”

Exactly. It’s about serving the users. It has nothing to do with users creating ad revenue and monetary gains for Google. The more users Google has, the more money they make. China being the second largest Internet market in the world has a lot of users- 110 million to be exact. That 110 million is growing at a rate of 18 percent each year.

This translates into an enormous amount of money for Google. It’s enough money to cause Google to sellout the human rights of every Chinese citizen.

Bill Thompson, columnist for BBC News, believes Google’s motivation is purely monetary — “It makes commercial sense for the company.”
Google has every right as a company to make money and expand to a large market like China, but they are doing it at the expense of Chinese citizens. How can Google be useful, by it’s own definition, if all of the world’s information is not accessible to every man, woman and child using a computer in China right now?

Ben Elgin, reporter for Business Week Online, believes that even through censorship, Google and other Internet companies are providing a needed service. “Few are advocating that U.S. Internet companies turn their backs on China. By offering everything from Internet searches to e-mail and blogs, these companies are contributing to an increased flow of information and communications, which even critics admit could have a positive effect on China’s society,” said Elgin.

Elgin also points out that Google had been providing Chinese citizens a service for years before it decided to officially move its operation inside of China’s boundaries. “Google was already serving China’s market—and, arguably, doing so quite competently,” Elgin said.
The argument made earlier by Schmidt about serving Chinese users is completely wrong. Google had no reason to move their servers inside of China’s borders along with censoring their product. “A more accurate discussion would revolve around degrees of speed and service vs. the free flow of information — or perhaps around where Google would have a greater chance of enticing Chinese advertisers: inside or outside of the country,” Elgin said.

When Google housed their servers outside of China, Chinese users could find links to censored topics. These links if clicked on from inside of China would be blocked, but the user at least had knowledge of their existence. Those pages have now been removed and replaced with a disclosure at the bottom. What a great improvement. However, Google does not store any personal user information in China, which creates some security for its users.

Still, Google has watered down its product, and lowered its own human rights standards by officially moving into the Chinese market for money. Google’s ad revenue will never match the value of free flowing information.

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