This is a tentative post. I have been caught up in something important and haven't been able to update my blog. This piece is a compilation of two comments I made on this issue and will be rewritten properly as soon as I get time. They are haphazard and may be repetitive in parts and incoherent too. My apologies to those of you who regularly visited the blog checking for new posts. Updates should be regular henceforth.
In my book Google is not worthy of scorn being heaped on it. The same media which is criticising Google has no qualms when it compromises with the Chinese government to curry favour. I think more than the action itself, it is the company which did that has outraged people. Somehow Google itself had built this holier than thou halo about it which has now shattered. People are finding it hard to shed their image of Google and find it hard to digest their favourite benevolent geeky boys next door suddenly treading into a moral muddle.
Besides Google is particularly having it hard from both sides of the aisle. The conservatives are worked up because of perceived help to communism(How can anyone in his 'right' mind can call China communist is another issue) As Gawkar in his blogpost said the same conservatives who are crying hoarse about Google aiding commies have no qualms going gaga over Fox news without a trace of irony. Given Murdoch's deals with China which are more acomodative or in fact supportive of the Chinese regime, they have no right to take a high moral ground at all. From my discussions with Suyog it seems the Liberals are outraged because of another issue. They are linking this issue to the fact that our blue eyed boys would never have done anything like this were it not for the evil market forces prevailing on them ever since they have gone public with their IPO. They think somehow the shareholders are holding Page and Brin by the scruff and forcing them to deal with China.
In real world terms whether Google enters Chinese market or not is a non-issue given the fact that whether it entered or not would hardly have made any difference to freedom in China. It was not as if Chinese government was going to wake up one day and lament, 'Oh look! We have deprived our population of so much information through Google because of our repressive policies. Its time we change.' In a globalised economy it is impossible to be consistent and morally right about corporations dealings with countries which how shall we say are currently out of favour. If you really are that outraged by the lack of freedom in China choke their economy till they acquiesce. But that would bring down an economic slowdown everywhere. As a company expands this is bound to happen and earlier we get used to this the better.
Check this essay. It dwells on the topic of companies and moral responsibility beautifully and in an even handed manner. It deals with corporate philanthropical initiatives and tainted money, particularly about Harward University accepting grants from Exxon whose interests in South Africa were construed as abetting the aparthied regime. I think the same logic that the author explains applies to Google's case.
Why was there no hue and cry when Google agreed to censor Nazi related sites in France and Germany? Also paedophilia is censored in many countries. If one takes a 'there should either be complete freedom or no freedom at all' sort of a moral stance then there should be no double standards and the same yardstick should be applied elsewhere. That is the problem with moral stances always. In a globalised economy you can never get away without being a hypocrite. There will always be one small component that will be tainted. Besides I agree with Brin when he says that little freedom is better than no freedom. And you are discounting the ingenuity of the Chinese citizens altogether. Do you think that they aren't smart enough to coin new terms in place of democracy and human rights and falun gong to talk about the same things secretly? Also Google is not starting blogger and gmail so there is no question of the govt. arm twisting it to extract personal info about a user who has accessed some unwanted data. Also Google is going to have a note whenever the results are censored. Currently google results are censored by the Chinese and the readers may not even realise that they are missing out on something because it is being censored. Whereas once they know that they are being censored at least there is a chance of outrage being kept simmering everytime this happens. Only thing where you can fault Google is that they are going agaisnt their moto of 'do no evil.' But as you yourself have said in your post on terrorism evil is a subjective term. Once even dealing with a communist regime would have been considered evil. But we have seen the benefits reaped by the ordinary Chinese because of this so called 'evil.' And besides a company evolves. It is foolish to expect google to have the same policies as it had when it was a small start-up. That is not hypocrisy, that is maturity and much needed change owing to its adaptation to economies of scale. There will be newer geeks who will form the next Google through a technological invention. Google has now moved in a different league and it has earned its place through fair means without breaking any laws.. Another thing is if and when China becomes a democracy what is Google going to get in return if it stays out. a big zero. Because Yahoo and MSN would have a significant market share by then. Why should Google a corporation lose out to competitors through no fault of its own. It is the responsibility of the govt. and not Google to define the interactions permitted with such regimes. So long as it is breaking no law I dont see a problem.
I am going to make a logically well-argued post. But feel free to point any holes in this one till then.