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Google and China Controversy

An incident in early 2010 stemming from Google being the victim of a cyber attack that originated in China.

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This issue is about China's censorship laws, not all the sins of the Western world

  • Jan 22, 2010
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Lunch can be a refreshing change of pace from many other opinion sites that display thoughtless comment posts in which invectives are hurled at both sides of an issue.

That being said, I don't think the discussion about Google and China should be so trite. I can't believe that some would use this as an opportunity to engage in cultural relativism, and compare the West's long history of violence with China's current predicament. It would seem that many China apologists believe they can list any example of the West’s violent history in order to absolve China of any wrongdoing, no matter how insidious.

Rhetorical gamesmanship used to work better when China was not very powerful. But that is no longer the case. China will soon pass Japan as the world 2nd largest economy. The time for pretending China should not be held to the same human right’s standards as the rest of the world are long gone.

The only reason why more countries and more companies do not publicly chastise China, as Google as done, is purely because of money. That is the only reason. China represents the largest untapped foreign market and the largest potential for corporate growth. But it takes a very cynical person to worry about what Google’s shareholders will think while Google is making a principled stand for freedom of speech.

Really? What will the shareholders think?? If that argument doesn’t fully reveal that this version of capitalism is completely morally bankrupt, I don’t know what does.

What would the shareholders think if a company pollutes and poisons the drinking water of a nearby town? What would the shareholders think if the company was to stop creating such lucrative, but dangerous products because the risk to children was too great?

What would the shareholders think if the company, after submitting to years of heavy-handed government-directed censorship, after discovering a massive cyber-attack on their proprietary servers, after finding out that the hackers were trying to uncover political dissidents, after determining that the only “laws” this government follows are the “laws” that it fabricates in order to consolidate its unquestioned power, that this company were to suddenly develop a conscience and want to review its complicity with censorship?

The shareholders might not care. But that is not the point. The citizens of a government should care. And not just the citizens of the government who are allowed internet access to spin censorship issues in the government’s favor.

The United States has had a long and difficult relationship with free speech. It wasn’t always so clear how the government, and the government’s most fierce apologists, felt about it. But by and large, free speech is favored by the minority (or the powerless) and feared by the majority (or powerful). And typically, any restrictions on free speech are created to stifle an open discussion on an issue. Oppressive governments will argue that censorship will keep the general populace safe because the government would only censor material that would be harmful, right?

Opinions like that are dangerously naïve or capriciously cynical. Either way, the whole point of free speech is that sometimes you’ll hear something you disagree with; and that’s often a good thing, because then someone won’t be able to stop you from speaking when they disagree with you.

I'm sure my email will be hacked by tomorrow.

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January 23, 2010
Haha... no, your email won't be hacked. Everyone in the world has different perspectives & realities. Having said that, we are all trying to make sense (if indeed that is possible) what exactly is the motive behind Google's withdrawal. It is not all about China's censorship law. Ditto Devora. Google had no problem with it when they set up their operations. As for the other point of views, since you had your entire review pasted in response to my review, I had answered some concerns of yours from there.
January 23, 2010
very interesting topic for sure. i'm very curious to watch this play out. thanks for sharing the review (and for recognizing why Lunch is diff)
January 22, 2010
If a company wants to tap into a certain country's market, they have to play by their rules, and Google seemed to be okay with playing by China's rules until Operation Aurora occurred last month.  The Chinese government didn't hack into too much sensitive information, but I think it was how massive of a cyber attack that it was that turned Google off.  I totally see where you're coming from, but for the most part, money seems to make the world go round.  Fortunately, Google has enough of it not to care and can afford to take a stand.  I'm all for human rights and free speech in China, and while I applaud Google for taking a stand, I still don't necessarily think that this was the best way to do it nor do I think it was the best business move.  I guess we'll have to wait to see how this plays out.

Thanks for sharing this very thought-provoking review, Thomas.  "Lunch can be a refreshing change of pace from many other opinion sites that display thoughtless comment posts in which invectives are hurled at both sides of an issue" -- yup, Lunch is good about that sort of thing and we're glad to have you! :)
January 22, 2010
Seriously interesting review on such an intense topic...thanks for sharing!
More Google and China 2010 Controve... reviews
review by . January 16, 2010
Google vs China, Round 1
Surprise, surprise! No one here on Lunch writing a review on Google after such a big piece of news hits the market?!    Let’s face it, Google challenging China on its censorship policy… is that really a wise move?   A company flexing its muscle while trying to operate in a foreign environment?   I don’t know about you, perhaps freedom of speech is of utmost importance to the Americans. We know all about Americans and western world’s ideal …
Quick Tip by . January 23, 2010
A lose-lose situation if Google indeed pull out of China. Is it free speech / is it fear? Does it accomplish anything?Who/ what is at stake?
Quick Tip by . January 23, 2010
An unfortunate situation where no one really seems to be winning. Waiting to see how this will play out.
Quick Tip by . January 23, 2010
so many issues at play with this issue. still trying to wrap my head around it.
About the reviewer
Thomas Brophy ()
Ranked #405
Member Since: Dec 14, 2008
Last Login: May 29, 2010 06:43 PM UTC
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About this topic


On January 12, 2010, Google announced that it is "no longer willing to continue censoring" results on Google.cn, citing a breach of Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. The company found that the hackers had breached into two Gmail accounts but was only able to access 'from' and 'to' information and subject headers of emails in these accounts The company's investigation into the attack showed that at least 20 other companies had been similarly targeted. Additionally, "dozens" of Gmail accounts in China, Europe, and the United States had been regularly accessed by third parties, due to phishing or malware on the users' computers rather than a security breach at Google. Although Google did not explicitly accuse the Chinese government of the breach, it said it was no longer willing to censor results on google.cn, and that it will discuss over the next few weeks "the basis on which we could run an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

On January 13, 2010, the news agency AHN reported that the U.S. Congress plans to investigate Google's allegations that the Chinese government used the company's service to spy on human rights activists.
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