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Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006, 09:45 am
Sometimes I hate the left

Google are under fire for censoring search results in china. Protesters seem to reckon that it is "immoral" for Google to do this and that rather than do business with China they need to break those laws and strike a blow for a very specific type of freedom!
Does anyone else get a bit of a shiver down their spines at the thought of a company being expected to act as a moral authority who can break laws when they don't suit the ethical standpoint of a vocal minority?
Of course, I know a good many of you reading this are googlers (haw) and aren't supposed to reply so - neah neah! you have google robots in your brains making you happy all the time!

Edit: Also - Robot Sex (safe for work)
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Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 10:25 am (UTC)
mr_wombat

You could equally argue that since MSN, Yahoo and co are a lot more eager to help the chinese government Google is offering an alternative that isn't quite so dangerous for dissidents.
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Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 10:35 am (UTC)
mr_wombat

Works for me too since it satisfies my "the protestors are full of crap" standpoint. Between this and the Homeland Security record requests nonsense the theme seems to be "Break laws and act in a moral manner provided they're the ones we deem right and proper"

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 12:12 pm (UTC)
natural20

You could, but I'm inclined not to. One of Google's founders said they would not do what they have done. I cannot quote verbatim from the interview (Channel4 news, 2004), but he basically said it was against the ethics of the company. Nothing I've seen from Google since then has provided a valid argument to change this standpoint.

So do Google believe that MSN etc. will colour the searches even more than Google are? What actual alternative are they offering? If they are restricted in the same way then what's the difference? And how big a pile of money are they getting for doing this good work?


Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC)
mr_wombat

"If they are restricted in the same way then what's the difference?"

I suppose thats the other way of looking at it. All the criticism seems to be aimed at Google when even in the worst case scenario, nothing thats been reported is any worse than what the others are doing - so I have to wonder *why* google is copping all the flack.
My understanding of the situation (and this is admittedly incomplete) so far is that where Yahoo have complied with the chinese government's requests regarding handing over data on suspected dissidents (resulting in at least one arrest/disappearance), Google has stopped at simply censoring the search results.
The cynic in me believes that since Google is a geek company (compared to Yahoo or MSN who would be more business-ey) Geeks feel that Google need to answer to them and Googles ongoing insistence on behaving like an actual company with the goal of making money (while providing excellent service) and NOT bending to all geek demands about information infuriates them.

The same sort of thing seems to apply to gamers and conventions - once the staff of any enterprise is drawn from the same pool as the customers, the customers feel that the staff's status as community members outweighs their obligation to the enterprise. I reckon it could be a phenomon... cognitive dissonance or something.

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 12:32 pm (UTC)
natural20

I suppose thats the other way of looking at it. All the criticism seems to be aimed at Google when even in the worst case scenario, nothing thats been reported is any worse than what the others are doing - so I have to wonder *why* google is copping all the flack.

Because I've never heard MSN or Yahoo or others put themselves forth as the company that do no evil. That's kinda it really. Google have put themselves on the pedestal, so when they do something like this, that appears to be in contravention of stated ethics and intentions (as I said, this is something the man in charge said they wouldn't do) then they've got to expect some flack.

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
iresprite

Yeah, that's definitely the crux of the matter. It's not about dictating moral authority: it's about engaging in practices that are not morally firm.

I've heard arguments saying that Google is a company, and its bottom line is to make money. That would be fine if they hadn't raised the stakes by saying, "We are an amazing innovative company who also believe that a company should do The Right Thing."

As for whether they are offering a better alternative to MSN or Yahoo- how? Because they haven't turned in a journalist or a blogger yet? They're still offering incomplete results.

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
mr_wombat

Yeah but I question the definitions of "The right thing" - is it the right thing to not enter the marketplace at all and let the other companies act in a much worse manner and not leave the citizens with a third option that won't drop them in a sodding gulag the second the government snaps their fingers? Sometimes you have to comprimise your ethics in order to do some real good. You can be damned sure they'd never get a chance to exercise their moral muscles from outside [1].

"Because they haven't turned in a journalist or a blogger yet? They're still offering incomplete results."
Yeah but the flipside is that they haven't actually *done* it, so they definitely still have the moral high ground in comparison.

I think they're being criticised for stuff they haven't done yet to be honest.

[1] Not that I'm claiming they're going to go A-Team on China's ass or anything heroic.

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC)
iresprite

is it the right thing to not enter the marketplace at all and let the other companies act in a much worse manner and not leave the citizens with a third option that won't drop them in a sodding gulag the second the government snaps their fingers?

I believe so, yes. I believe that if Google made that statement of not entering the marketplace and gave their reason, that would filter down to the citizens. They will notice that the only U.S. business who refuses to screw them over is Google. And then they'll think, "huh! We're not alone! Someone in the U.S. actually believes ion their principles of free speech." I believe that's right.

I don't think that compromising morals is going to gain anything in the long run: it only shows that Do No Evil is relatively elastic as long as the financial wellbeing of the big guy is concerned

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)

Well I kind of feel they just shouldn't have bothered going into China at all, if they were going to go against their own previously-professed ideals in order to do so (they apparently said they would never censor themselves, ever. It was all-or-nothing). It just makes you wonder why they did it, except for money. Selling out.

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 02:12 pm (UTC)
microgirl

'Twas me

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC)
mr_wombat

It could be that they felt that their presence could be more of a positive influence than letting MSN and Yahoo have market dominance and be a lot more pally with the Chinese government. That is of course *wild* supposition but they're in a better position to do some good by being available in China than by standing outside shaking their corporate fist - though of course it remains to be seen whether they'll use their powers for good or boredom.

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2006 03:02 pm (UTC)
iresprite

Also- that robot is a transformer, you know. His alternate form is a shabby bunch of boxes that homeless people piss on.