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Monday, 12 June 2006 08:07

Lure of the Chinese buck too much for Google

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It seems that the lure of Chinese lucre is proving too much for companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, who in order to get a piece of the action in China, have all compromised the values that enabled them to grow into the gigantic businesses they are today. According to a Reuters report, Google co-founder Sergey Brin says the search leader intends to press ahead with its heavily censored search site Google.cn.

In recent months, the three biggest internet companies have all been in the news about alleged activities which appear to be supportive of the non-democratic regime in China. The activities run counter to values of democracy and free speech. Yahoo has been accused of helping the Chinese authorities track down dissidents, while Microsoft has reportedly self-censored a blog. Most recently it has become apparent that the Chinese Government has moved to blRegisterock access in China to Google's uncensored global site, www.google.com, while allowing unfettered access to Google's heavily self-censored local site www.google.cn.

 The Google.cn site disallows searches on subjects such as Falun Gong, democracy, Tianamen Square and Taiwan. Literally thousands of search terms have been voluntarily erased by Google from its Chinese site so that the company can have access to the world's fastest growing market. What has been left is a selective Orwellian version of history and the world filtered through the politically correct channels of an authoritarian government.

China needs the West for trade at least as much as the West needs China. This was evidenced when the Chinese Government blocked access to Google.com in 2002 but backed down under pressure after a global outcry.

According to many observers, the decision by Google to voluntarily provide a local censored search site has emboldened the Chinese Government to once again block access to the uncensored global Google site. Recent remarks attributed to Sergey Brin in a Reuters report actually appear to lend support to the Chinese Government action. "If you are a normal Chinese user and you want to use Google, just go to google.com and you actually won't get good service. Eventually you will go to google.cn," Brin reportedly told a select group of journalists.

In a world where the free flow of information has increasingly gained the potential to help people in all corners of the globe to break the chains of tyranny, the acquiescence of companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to demands which stifle free speech is disappointing. Companies of this size and stature have responsibilities that go beyond the demands of their shareholders and authoritarian governments to the free political, social and economic system that has allowed them to prosper.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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