“Boycott Google!” (Not)

My arch-enemy, Maoist-turned-neocon Roger Simon, puts up a pompous post proclaiming that Google shareholders should dump the stock. And more.

Since this is obviously a manifestation of corporate greed at its most unbridled, not to say cynically exploitive of (even, in a way, racist towards) the people of the most populace country on Earth, it’s time to deal with Google in a manner that could actually affect the retrograde policy of the company. In other word, it’s time for…

… a Google stock divestment campaign.

Everyone who cares about the free-flow of information, about democracy in China, in fact about democracy anywhere, should start selling their Google stock. This should begin most especially with those vast university endowments because academic institutions, of all places, should be most concerned with the censorship of ideas and information. Union pension plans as well should seek to divest as their members should be particularly appalled by the company’s restrictive behavior. I could go on, but you certainly get the point. I welcome suggestions for how to mount this campaign in the comments below.

Even his own commenters say he’s being an ignorant asshole. What Google is doing benefits most Chinese people. A boycott is inane and misdirected. Do I think Google is “dancing with the devil?” Yes, just as I did when a company I once worked for approved a bribe to a local official, the only way we could get a permit for our client to put up a tent for a Beijing press event. Should we have refused, and given up our jobs? Tough issues, with lots of gray and no black or white.

It’s good to discuss these things, and I hope this incident generates more awareness of what it takes to do business in China. But calling for a boycott is rash and totally unproductive. I’d rather google be there than not be there. The company, however, can no longer take a moral high road and claim they won’t collaborate with governments’ shady policies when there’s money to be made. They’re doing what a corporation is supposed to do (see the film The Corporation to understand this concept better)and we can’t really blame them.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

I agree. Awareness is key.

In fact, if Google makes it clear to what’s being blocked, it might actually benefit the Chinese and the freeflow of information globally, since they will actually be more aware they are censored.

But to my understanding this isn’t happening with the CN implementation.

January 25, 2006 @ 6:50 pm | Comment

To clarify for those who are not clear:

Google search now has two types of “Chinese searches”. One is called “Google Chinese Global”, which searches for all Chinese content in the world, uncensored. This version (divided into Simplified and Traditional) I reckon is inaccessible in China today.

Google Chinese (searches simplified content): http://www.google.com/intl/zh-CN/

Google Chinese (searches traditional content): http://www.google.com/intl/zh-TW/

Now, the second version is Google China. This is the version that is now in controversy. This is Google’s search engine based in China (with servers in China) and was launched just recently. The searching content of this site is a subset of the Simplified search of the above Google Chinese. This is the site that is accessible in China. http://www.google.cn

The google.cn domain is always there. Before the launch of the Chinese site, the google.cn domain simply redirects the user to the Global Google Chinese. And that was actually accessible in China. How were the search results blocked when people in China try to use the Global Google Chinese search? Well if you type in a phrase like “Tiananmen Massacre” and hit enter, you get a “internet connection error from your browser”, and you’ll most likely be banned from accessing google all together for the next 15 minutes. This is simply the great Firewall working externally to filter out content, and has nothing to do with Google, as the same search would return normal results if you accessed the same site from outside of China.

Today, in google.cn, if you type in “Tiananmen Massacre”, you won’t get a generic “connection error” message and won’t get banned. Instead, you’ll get only results that are not relevant to the 1989 Incident, with a line at the bottom that says “certain results are not shown due to local laws”. This is implemented by google, and is not the result of the Great Firewall.

In conclusion, before Google China launched, Chinese google users had to use the Google Global Chinese search, but their search results were filtered out by the Great Firewall. Today, Chinese google users can use the Google China search, and get their results filtered by Google itself, without invoking the Great Firewall. So the only difference is that the Chinese gov’t put the work of filtering on Google engineers instead of their own Firewall engineers, and perhaps would relieve much of their work. The difference to Chinese users before and after the google China launch? None

January 25, 2006 @ 7:15 pm | Comment

Surely China_hand is making an excellent point. What really is the difference between a search engine like baidu and google china? The Chinese already know they are being censored, surely it is somewhat patronising to suggest it takes google to point this out to them. Google sounds just like the whole lame stuff from yahoo and microsoft ‘it is better to be there than not’. I fail to see how this is so if all they are doing is taking work away from the chinese government and not doing anything different from Chinese companies. I’d love to be wrong here, but it just looks like profits come before ethics.

January 25, 2006 @ 8:22 pm | Comment

A one-man boycott?

That’s sure to make headlines.

January 25, 2006 @ 8:52 pm | Comment

Roger Simon has an immense redership that includes many in the bush ‘government,” like Michael Ledeen. It was nice to see his own commenters smack him down.

January 25, 2006 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

China_hand, that explains why I kept getting connections errors when I was in Shanghai ( I wasn’t even looking for Tienamen, democracy, etc – just international news). I had thought they had a shitty connection.

So it seems like before, people got connection errors and had to deal with the pain of the connection timeouts and a 15 minute block – inconvenient reminders of censoring in action.

Now they get only what’s permitted, with some tiny comment at the bottom.

It’s a convenient way to get the Chinese to forget they’re being censored.

January 25, 2006 @ 10:10 pm | Comment

Si, yep, that’s all it is. It’s all about incentives.

It’s true with the international diplomacy issues betwen PRC and ROC/Taiwan as well. The politices are not based on their belief that the PRC is the “one ruler of China” or whatever – they couldn’t care less.

January 25, 2006 @ 10:19 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.