Google’s broken links

January 13, 2010

Google should carry out its threat to withdraw from China. The US search giant says a cyber-attack on its intellectual property, and attempts to access email data from human rights activists, have driven it to the edge. From now on, it’s no censorship, or no Google. Ditching the world’s biggest group of web surfers makes a powerful statement about free speech – but could be good for business too.

It’s easy to be cynical about Google’s feisty tone. After all, the company has been willing to trim edit search results in China for three years to placate Beijing. And despite its “don’t be evil” corporate mantra, Google’s shareholders have gone along with voluntary censorship. It seems the final straw wasn’t principle, but property – the apparent theft of the algorithms Google uses to generate its search results.

But Google’s anger does highlight a real problem. Internet censorship in China is getting worse. Curbs range from the sinister to the ridiculous. Many web cafés have live video links to police stations; college students can win cash prizes in porn-hunting competitions. China’s farcical adult content filtering software, Green Dam, blocked pictures of cartoon cat Garfield and roast pork, but allowed some nudity to sail right through.

Google isn’t yet making money in China, say people familiar with the situation. And investors probably weren’t pricing in much potential. China’s market leader, Baidu, has a market capitalisation of just $14 billion – less than a tenth of Google’s. Still, exiting China will not be painless. Internet ad spending is set to more than double by 2012, according to Credit Suisse. The country’s internet users outnumber the population of the US.

The pain is probably worth it. Quitting China would restore the ethical credentials Google compromised at Beijing’s behest. That will surely win it more fans elsewhere, and not just among users. French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, who angered China’s leaders when he met the Dalai Lama, has already attacked Google for market dominance. The bigger it gets, the more Google depends on political goodwill to keep making money. Being principled in China may pay dividends in the West.

Comments

It seems that the analyst and bloggers do not get what China is.
- A country where 80% live in a abject misery, snd the Government does nearly nothing to improve this situation, to be able to sustain salaries of $100 in the largest cities and $ 50/month elsewhere, to be able to innondate the world with cheap products

- instead, the government is misspending the money in Luxury projects as bullet trains which cannot be afforded by the bulk of the population, Olympic building which are unnecessary now, etc., enriching a small sector of the population (including many billionaires with dubious sources of their wealth)

- the bulk of the population, due to the iron fisted control of the Media, added the lack of access to “forbidden” international sources due to the nearly total lack of foreign languages knowledge (this include even the vast majority of the non-poor), is not aware of this facts.
They are maintained more or less content by stressing that their situation is better now than in maoist times!

3) So, a free information flow IN CHINESE. as Google would provide, IS OUT OF QUESTION.

Posted by caminito | Report as abusive
 

Caminito,
Good points and it is about time consumers and businesses at least in the USA see China for what it really is.
Too easy for everyone here in the states to stick their heads in the proverbial sand and pretend that everything is ok while they chase low prices and profits; apparently unaware that their behavior is going to come back to bite them in a bigger way than they ever thought possible.

Posted by bikebrainiac | Report as abusive
 

It should also be understood that China’s government has no problem stealing technology that it finds useful for it’s own purposes. Any company doing business there will find knockoffs of their technologies popping up on competitors’ inventories. Remember the IPhone knockoff that showed up just after Apple started selling in China? Baidu will likely begin demonstrating features very similar to Google’s own search engine now that some of their code has been stolen.

These things are done in order to keep the Chinese people in ignorance. “Keep their backs strong and their minds weak” is an old Chinese government philosophy going back to the days of the emperors. These next few years will be interesting to say the least.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive
 

It is good timing when google is being sued by Chinese authers for google’s business wrong doing to illeagually copy their book contents and put in google’s search engine, and then google threaten to withdraw from China on the basis of free speech and human rights. The best reason to withdraw is actually on the basis of voilating publication copyright. What an exit strategy.

Posted by Macqueen | Report as abusive
 

Google ought not to threaten withdrawal from China, in my opinion. They should shut down immediately for a complete overhaul meanwhile letting that market of institutional thieves fend for themselves without it, and in due course prosecute whomever is found to be pilfering their software.

To a greater or lesser extent, self-censorship is becoming a problem in all media nearly everywhere in the world. I don’t know that Google is part of the cure, but as long as they are perceived as part of the problem, that’s an even greater risk to their global public acceptance than losing a bit of China for however long it takes to sort this mess out, point-blank.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive
 

I quit using Google when I found out Al Gore is on their advisory board and they were editing out search words for climate-gate. Bing works just fine.

Posted by GLK | Report as abusive
 

Oh dear, GLK. And you probably believe other conspiracy theories too, like thousands of scientists made climate change up to enrich themselves. As a scientist, I can point out the flaw in that argument pretty readily. Here’s a suggestion: try googling climate-gate.

Incidentally:
“Addressing global warming is a responsibility we take very seriously at Microsoft.”

- Steve Ballmer
Chief Executive Officer
Microsoft

Posted by Bendy | Report as abusive
 

Conspiracy supporter? Moi? And, yes, I know it is climate-gate. I simply don’t agree with Global Warming nor do I particularly like Al Gore’s ideology. It’s too bad a man of your lofty position had to react with such sarcasm. It says a lot about why people of your ilk are failing so miserably at getting the throngs to acquiesce.

Posted by GLK | Report as abusive
 

Hahaha as if the real Steve Ballmer would post that crap. “As a scientist”…with what credibility? You loser…not only do you have a pathetic arguement you can’t even back it up with anything concrete.

Do you take global warming as seriously as you took Vista? LOL

Posted by justin_time | Report as abusive
 

Whomever you are “Mr. Ballmer” clearly you know nothing of science or scientists. Let me tell you why. Science feeds on questions and its life blood is consensus. In order for science to work, there has to be wiggle room within theory for healthy debate and ordinary people should be privy to both sides of the discussion. Unfortunately the infrastructure that wires the Global community together has clearly stifled the naysayers while allowing free reign and a lot of money to the proponents of Global Warming. So much so that in order to have a voice dissenters had to resort climate-gate tactics. The fact is, people respond to incentives. When it comes to the issue of Climate Change what incentive does a scientist in today’s world have to question what the media has billed as the status quo? None, of course. In fact, the incentive is not to dissent so as not to risk being ostracized by the hand that feeds them. So, clearly the tables are tilted in favor of those in agreement. That, in and of itself, is cause enough to give me plenty of basis for pause and skepticism. Also, so many scientific “truths” have been shattered just in my lifetime alone that it is obvious science is forever changing and evolving in both forward and backward directions. Lest you surmise I think this is a bad thing let me be clear by saying I don’t. In fact, the mercurial nature of scientific theory is what makes science great. To put it succinctly, WHEN EVERYONE THINKS THE SAME LEARNING STOPS. A scientist values learning above all else and in so doing will always welcome debate. And that, dear fellow, is why you know nothing of science. Those Climatists that cry, “We must act now the sky is falling!” ergo “It’s my way or the highway” have sold themselves out and are sending us all on a path to the dark ages.

Posted by GLK | Report as abusive
 

GLK and Justin:
Bendy wasn’t signing his post as Steve Ballmer; he was showing a Steve Ballmer quote, and suggesting that, if you don’t use Google because of their political beliefs, you probably shouldn’t use Microsoft, either.

A thinking person could pretty easily have comprehended that.

(btw, you probably won’t like Apple political affiliations, either — hope you’re a Linux user!)

Posted by xmichaelx | Report as abusive
 

GLK: “WHEN EVERYONE THINKS THE SAME LEARNING STOPS.”

This is why I believe the earth is flat.

Posted by xmichaelx | Report as abusive
 

The climate blog is down the street from here.

This blog is about a communist dictatorship, which has been publicly outed as a dishonest nation who will dishonour the deals it makes with business partners in order to spy on rights activists.

And as of 13 January, Google has decided to cease all further censorship of google searches in China, while it “reviews the feasability of future business”.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive
 

Google can serve the Chinese better by defending the integrity of Internet.
After all, Internet is about freedom of expression. Google has submitted to the government of China far too long already, it’s time to stand up.

Posted by scheng1 | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/