Google pulls “We don’t censor” statement

Heh. Click to enlarge the screen capture.

Google’s support centre has pulled an answer to the topical question “Does Google censor search results?” Since the answer clearly stated the company “does not censor results for any search term”, and given the company’s recent foray into the lucrative Chinese search engine market, it seems fair that the internet monolith would probably want to review that particular stance and relegate the offending item to cache.

google_grab.gif

Yup, democracy is not a word you want to be flashing about when you’ve just opened a big fat Yuan bank account.

For the record, Google’s justification for agreeing to censorship of search results on Google China is, as Sergey Brin put it: “We ultimately made a difficult decision, but we felt that by participating there, and making our services more available, even if not to the 100 percent that we ideally would like, it will be better for Chinese Web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it.”

Chinese news website Xinhua kicks off its “China welcomes running dog lackey imperialist search engine” piece with: “By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world’s most populous country.”

It does, however, quickly move on to a refreshingly frank analysis of Google’s real motivation: “China already has more than 100 million web surfers and the audience is expected to swell substantially — an alluring prospect for Google as it tries to boost its already rapidly rising profits.”

Don’t be evil? Don’t make us laugh.

Talk about a PR nightmare. This is one for the books. My guess is that it’s just starting; the more I see about it, the worse I like it. My initial observation that this was good for the Chinese people is under review. And I now believe it was definitely bad for Google.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

Bad for Google was my thought as well. After building ‘the’ top international brand they just made a joke out of both their mission statement and motto. Plus, the China market isn’t that big. “Second biggest” internet market, maybe (if you don’t count Europe as a single entity) but it ain’t a wealthy market. heavily wired and wealthy Korea or Japan are far more lucrative. Bill Bishop has a good look at how much money they stand to make here

January 27, 2006 @ 8:11 am | Comment

Thanks for your link to that post on the China market! There’s a comment there that makes a point about the China market I’ve been trying to convey for years, without much success:

Its more about the China dream – 1.3 billion potential customers! There are a number of Chinese Internet co’s that have done an amazing job in getting to where they are now but the reality is that in $$ terms this is still a small market, and even if it continues to grow rapidly its still going to be a small piece of the global pie for a long time.

The thing is that foreign investors WANT TO BELIEVE that China is the new frontier (it’s got the world’s 2nd largest Internet population for god’s sake!!) while overlooking the fact that its an extremely competitive environment and so even where margins are high they soon become lower.

I think it will be very hard for any Chinese company to break through to the next level and ever become the next Google or Yahoo. The portals have their cosy ogilopoly and many are run by the founders who would rather stay smaller and keep control of their babies than give up the reins.

Plus in China if you start encroaching on the territory of the big state owned giants then you’re in trouble. Sina, Sohu or Netease were allowed to grow because the Internet was a new media and the government wasn’t in there already. Focus Media has a great model but if CCTV feels that they are taking too many ad dollars away from them then they will be knocked back. The MVAS’s will never have the upper hand against China Mobile and face the prospect of declining margins or being cut out of the value chain altogether for some services.

For foreign companies its important to say that you’re in the world’s second largest Internet market to keep the investors happy. Plus the cost of entry isn’t that high – US$1 billion to buy into Alibaba is small change for a company like Yahoo and Ebay only spent under $US200 million for Eachnet. And I bet that one of the motivations for Yahoo investing into Alibaba/ Taobao was just to piss off Ebay, plus Softbank would have told them how Yahoo Japan was able to beat Ebay in Japan and they could do the same thing in China.

I really wish Americans would get a grip and realize just how small the China market is in comparison to the mythology that’s sprung up around it. I remember reading how, at a board meeting about a company’s (P&G?) plans to enter the China market with their deodorant, the CEO cried out ecstatically, “2 billion armpits!” What he didn’t say, or know, is that the Chinese generally don’t use deodorant (tell me about it – ever go shopping for it in a Chinese supermarket?) and most aren’t interested in spending their money on it.

January 27, 2006 @ 8:18 am | Comment

Sigh, deodorant is almost impossible to find in Shanghai. There are things that you can do in China to make money (manufacturing for export) and things that just lose money (most goods and services for the domestic market, and forget about entertainment). The Internet may have some niche areas that can be profitable, but most of the China net companies I speak with are bleeding cash and suffering through losses with the hope that advertising or 3G will eventually pay off. “Why aren’t you in China?” may be on most shareholder’s lips, but “why are you in China?” would be a better question in many cases.

January 27, 2006 @ 9:53 am | Comment

My flight on Olympic Airways to Greece was a lot smellier than my flights on China Eastern. :)

January 27, 2006 @ 10:40 am | Comment

Oh come on, you can get deoderant in Watsons, and Shanghai has plenty of those. When I lived in Jiangxi I used to travel to Shanghai specifically to buy it, and dental floss, and cheese, and…(yeah, you get the message).
On the China market: I’ve got this half-remembered quote in my head, something along the lines of, “for three hundred years Western companies have been entranced by the riches offered by the Chinese market. The vast majority of them have been bitterly disappointed.”
Cannot for the life of me remember where I read it. Neal Stephenson possibly? The Diamond Age or Cryptonomicon? Or somewhere else?
Whoever wrote it, they had a real point.

I still think Google are taking far too much flak in the press for really not having been that evil at all. They’ve done nothing nearly as evil as microsoft or cisco, yet everybody is laying into them. This is just going to encourage American internet firms to keep all their activities in China a secret from now on, so we have to guess their motives and which deals they’ve made.
Will suggested that google were asking for it, “Don’t be evil” is just taunting people to accuse you of evil. Probably right.

January 27, 2006 @ 10:22 pm | Comment

As Asiapundit said, not evil, but definitely stupid. This will haunt them for years. It goes in direct contradiction to the foundations of its “Unique Value Proposition” – no evil and no censorship. It may not be clinically “evil,” but agreeing to work with the CCP to censor will be seen in the West as qualifiying. As I said, it’s no different from many companies’ policies re. China. But google can never be the same company again; they are now tarnished and will be on the offensive for a long time – whether it’s justified or not. Personally, I now feel they made a terrible mistake.

January 28, 2006 @ 4:15 am | Comment

I think there’s an expression about “digging a hole” that might be appropriate?

The more google is seen to try to justify the unjustifiable, its reputation sinks lower. The sensible thing would be to come clean and just admit that sometimes it “can’t” or won’t adhere to the mission statement. But by trying to pretend it’s still “ok”, google are just pissing people off by trying to patronise them. And, GEEE, whadaya know – WE DON’T BUY IT!!!!

At this rate it will soon be regarded as just another Microsoft or Yahoo.

January 29, 2006 @ 4:31 am | Comment

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