If you’re even mildly interested in the tech biz, you probably already know that the ongoing showdown between the folks at Google and the Chinese regime has finally come to a close. Free speech advocates are likely be pleased to hear that Google’s latest attempt to placate the forces of totalitarianism appears to have succeeded. But before you crack the champagne, you might want to take a more detailed look at the end result of this purported triumph of civil liberties. Yes, it’s true. Despite the plethora of positive press coverage, “compromise” really isn’t the best way to describe Google’s actions. Upon further examination it becomes clear that internet freedom advocates would be more apt to describe this one as an EPIC FAIL.
Indeed, Google appears to have failed at failing, which is no small feat. As the Washington Post Editorial notes, Google’s battle may have been nothing more than a hollow publicity stunt designed to distinguish it from censorship-happy competitors like Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Now everyone knows that these companies aren’t really interested in standing up for universal human rights; their main concern is with the all mighty dollar, and China represents one of the world’s most lucrative burgeoning markets. Consequently, their willingness to engage in the politics of oppression makes perfect sense from a business standpoint and their stockholders probably appreciate their objectivity. Getting involved in sensitive issues may be good in terms of PR, but it’s also a tremendously risky venture that rarely produces successful results in the long run. As of right now, Google’s stocks are up, which signifies increased confidence on the part of their investors; the surge is no doubt propelled by today’s announcement. To put it bluntly, the opinions of stockholders are worth far more than those of a handful of activists and disgruntled bloggers.
Still, experts are noting that Google may have inadvertently cut off its power supply to spite its motherboard. Its decision to limit Chinese users to mere music and consumer goods searches directly benefits its chief Chinese rival Baidu, but keep in mind that Google has its fingers in plenty of non-search related pies.
Beyond its extracurricular activities, Americans might be interested in learn how Google operates within its homeland. This uber complicated graphic makes a very valid point about the company’s insistence on secrecy and questionable practices. Part of Google’s response to any criticism surrounding its China policy will definitely involve pointing the finger at other ostensibly democratic governments, such as our own. It should be noted that the U.S. ranks in at #3 on the list of requests for user account data and # 4 on in terms of content removal. While the scales of suppression are basically incomparable when it comes to the U.S. and China, thought control tactics are unfortunately an international norm. Google freely admits that this gesture of transparency isn’t necessarily accurate or comprehensive. Anyone who bothers to check out the map will notice a glaring omission: China.
Today’s decision represents a fitting epitaph for empty posturing in the name of prosperity. So there you have it folks, the end of those disingenuous news headlines that portrayed Google as the lone defenders of virtual liberty. I can’t say I blame the corporate giant for putting profits ahead of ideals. No, what I object to about this whole debacle is the big charade. I value honesty above all else when it comes to commerce. Call me crazy, but I like to know what these types of ventures are really about. I understand competition and concessions when it comes to ethical principles. Most everyone does, which is why I don’t get Google conducting an extensive ad campaign for the express purpose of faking their climb to moral high ground.
News flash: No one’s buying it, so next time, don’t bother.