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Google Asks US For WTO Block On China Censorship 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the calling-in-the-bantam-artillery dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google is asking the US government to petition the World Trade Organization to recognize China's censorship as an unfair barrier to trade. The US Trade Representative is reviewing their petition to see if they can prove that China's rules discriminate against foreign competition. At least it's something worthwhile for the US Trade Reps to do, rather than secretly negotiating ACTA."
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Google Asks US For WTO Block On China Censorship

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  • Google V China (Score:5, Interesting)

    by N3tRunner (164483) * on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @09:59AM (#31344714)

    I'm really quite proud of Google for taking on China over this issue. I understand that China is a big search market and Google is just trying to ensure that it gets every last click out of it, but having uncensored access to Google search is something that Chinese citizens really should have. It's one of their only ways to find news and information that hasn't been filtered through the government's propaganda machine. Obviously, that's why China doesn't want them to be able to use it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pojut (1027544)

      "The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship." -George Bernard Shaw

    • Re:Google V China (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JordanL (886154) <jordan.ledoux@gm a i l . com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:05AM (#31344794) Homepage
      I'm quite proud of Google as well... because they seem to be going to extraordinary lengths to be a complete pain in the ass the Chinese government on the issue. Not to spite the Chinese, but to make them "play fair".

      Google seemed to realize that until someone made a HUGE fuss over it the status quo would never change.
      • Re:Google V China (Score:4, Interesting)

        by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:10AM (#31344858) Journal

        Over the years I've heard people talk about social responsibility of corporations. It was always a bit of a joke, but you know what? I think Google was listening too. It's one of the few companies I can think of that I would say is 'socially responsible' as a corporation. There has to be some record somewhere of the first business to take on a government head to head or something along those lines. Does anyone know if this qualifies Google in some special category?

        • Re:Google V China (Score:5, Insightful)

          by maccallr (240314) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:21AM (#31345000) Homepage Journal

          Well personally I'd wait and see if they "do no evil" with regard to their blatantly obvious software patent [slashdot.org] for using geolocation info to target ads.

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The motto is "Don't be evil" not "Do no evil". It's impossible to do no evil in a world with so much subjectivity.

          • Re:Google V China (Score:5, Insightful)

            by bberens (965711) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @11:45AM (#31346196)
            Call me when they try to enforce it. It's just good policy to file defensive patents on seemingly stupid things. It stinks that the system is designed so that it's good policy, but it is good policy nonetheless.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sir_Lewk (967686)

          The East India Trading Company rivaled most governments in power but this is the first time in history something like this has happened, to my knowledge. I'm not sure if I should be happy, or somewhat scared.

        • It's not always a joke. We do still have some heroes...

          Feuerstein [wikipedia.org]

        • by kent_eh (543303)

          There has to be some record somewhere of the first business to take on a government head to head or something along those lines. Does anyone know if this qualifies Google in some special category?

          There is a long and sad history of companies taking on governments to try and change the government's policies
          Though usually the change they want is in the sole interest of the company, against the interest of their competitors, and who gives a damn about general public's interest.
          In this case, Google's interests happen to mostly align with the interests of their competitors, and of the public.

          It makes for better PR, but it is still a company "taking on government" in their own interests.

        • by houghi (78078)

          It would be great if Google did it because of tehir good nature. The real reason is that they make money by not having any censorship. It is more "Boohoo, we can't do business like we want to, please change it."

          It would be even worse if the US governement would listen and start doing it. Because that would be even more proof that companies is what they listen to and not the multitude of people who already asked then to do something about it.

        • Over the years I've heard people talk about social responsibility of corporations. It was always a bit of a joke, but you know what? I think Google was listening too. one of the few companies I can think of that I would say is 'socially responsible' as a corporation.

          When Google went public, it took the somewhat unusual step of sharply limiting the voting rights of the class of stock available in the IPO compared to the class of stock held by its founders. This means that Google, while being a public and f

        • by yuhong (1378501)
          Yea, I know Google is one of the better big companies for a while now. BTW, Sergey Brin was very involved here, and I even did a Slashdot submission on it that got accepted. Here it is:
          http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/01/28/1316226/Behind-Googles-Recent-Decision-About-China [slashdot.org]
          http://slashdot.org/submission/1160250/Behind-Googles-recent-decision-about-China [slashdot.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ... that Google couldn't care less about the civil liberties of the average Chinese citizen. All Google wants is to be the invasive ones in everyone's daily online lives in a background, monitoring sense. Google is probably negotiating deals with China regarding data collection and backdoor eavesdropping.

      • by bberens (965711)
        Google is probably trying to win the "good will" of the Chinese people by being a vocal advocate for them. It certainly wins good will from me to see Google publicly fighting censorship in China. As a result I, and presumably many Chinese, will be willing to exchange some of my information so that Google can profit from it. If the culture of Google changes and I become aware of any serious breaches of my privacy (beyond the little I willingly give up) then I will simply change my home page and block the
    • Re:Google V China (Score:4, Informative)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:28AM (#31345110)
      Don't be. The only reason they are doing this is because China directly threatened their bottom line by trying to steal [wired.com] some of Google's proprietary source code (their bread and butter). Before China did that, Google was more than happy to censor their search results and hand over dissidents just like everyone else. Google isn't taking on China to protect innocents, they're doing it to send a message to China that if you hit Google's money train, they will hit back.
      • Re:Google V China (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:50AM (#31345400)

        Not "just like everybody else". Yahoo and others were happy to censor their search results silently, while Google insisted that they be able to display the fact that they had been censored. In my opinion, this was the least bad option. If they had meekly followed Yahoo, the Chinese people would have no idea what was being censored and how often. If they had refused to censor, China would simply have thrown them out and walled them off, and Chinese searchers would have been limited to silently censored searches. Any change to China must come from inside China, from the Chinese people. But what they don't know they cannot change; Google's solution at least told them when something was being hidden from them, so they can ask if they want a government that does that. If Google pulls out of China, it will revert to the state that the Chinese will not even know what is being hidden from them.

        • by Jurily (900488)

          Yahoo and others were happy to censor their search results silently

          C'mon. Even the Chinese know better than to steal Yahoo's search algorithm.

      • Before China did that, Google was more than happy to censor their search results and hand over dissidents just like everyone else.

        Actually no they weren't.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        I do agree but it is slightly better than nothing.
        At this point if google takes a payoff then they are just as evil as anybody else.
        If the keep fighting then they are slightly better than others.

      • by xant (99438)

        Who cares about the motivations? "Altruistic" behavior always has motivations, they're just more complex motivations than for "selfish" behavior. Let Google take credit for what they're doing, they're doing the right thing today.

      • by dissy (172727)

        Don't be. The only reason they are doing this is because China directly threatened their bottom line by trying to steal [wired.com] some of Google's proprietary source code (their bread and butter).

        Oh, so we are supposed to be pissed off at people who do evil, AND now pissed off just as much at people who do a lot of good, but only when doing that good is for free?

        Gotcha

        Before China did that, Google was more than happy to censor their search results and hand over dissidents just like everyone else.

        Oooh, o

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by koxkoxkox (879667)

      I guess we have half the chance of getting the whole google.com banned from mainland China and only accessible behind a VPN ... How would that be a progress to anyone ?

    • You are aware that Google makes its money by you providing you with your private information trough using their services, and then selling that to advertisers, are you?

    • by tqk (413719)
      The silly thing is, the worst hit by google pulling out of PRC would be present Chinese businesses attempting to market to the world.

      Does China really believe it would be a good thing to point that gun at its own foot?

      "Commie/Fascist Bastards" && "stupid" too?

      Make my day.
  • O.K they are doing it for their own benefit, but the side effect of that could be to encourage China to prevent censorship I personally think that repressive regimes should be removed from the internet entirely. (although that would have included the USA 2001-2009)
  • What happened to Google pulling out?? Like Tiger they've got no balls.
  • by wintercolby (1117427) <winter@colby.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:12AM (#31344886)
    Internet based trade barriers are everywhere, what immediately also comes to mind are the US block on gambling websites.

    The problem here is that it won't be easy to figth this one when we're not smelling like a rose, either.
    • Darn you preview pane . . .

      Internet based trade barriers are everywhere, what immediately also comes to mind is the US block on gambling websites.
      The problem here is that it won't be easy to fight this one when we're not smelling like a rose, either.

      Fixed that for me.

      • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @11:04AM (#31345616)

        Internet based trade barriers are everywhere, what immediately also comes to mind is the US block on gambling websites.
        The problem here is that it won't be easy to fight this one when we're not smelling like a rose, either.

        Fun fact: The WTO ruled against [bbc.co.uk] the US in the gambling website matter..

        • If I understand it right, a country raises a trade barrier if its rules discriminate against foreign imports. Say, if the rule says imported cars need to emit 25% less CO2 than domestic ones, then it is a trade barrier no matter how much you love the environment. but in these cases, both foreign and domestic have to obey the same censorships (or banning of gambling,) they are fair as long as trades are concern. google may make other trade barrier claim like if the state does not grant them video content lic
  • I was really disturbed by the buzz fiasco with privacy and was awaiting a good action from Google to restore my faith in them. I think this move deserve to be called a good action.

  • WTO reply (Score:3, Funny)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:24AM (#31345040)
    Sorry, we only do evil.
    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:28AM (#31345112) Homepage

      Sorry, we only do evil.

      Total, utter unmitigated uninformed bullshit. When have the WTO ever said "Sorry"?

    • Re:WTO reply (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @11:34AM (#31346052) Homepage

      The WTO is certainly among the lesser evils. In the old-old days, when the uber-wealthy wanted to protect their property rights, they had to hire mercenaries. It was cruel, but at least it was honest.

      Later in history, the developments of religion and nationalism enabled those on top to use mere rhetoric to convince the poor to die protecting business interests. Protect the King's land from the godless invaders! Fly under the stars and stripes to defend the fruit company's interests in the banana republics!

      With the advent of conscription, however, those who owned the world could merely summon slaves to make sure their property remained under their control (Korea, Vietnam).

      But the Owners didn't entirely control the new phenomenon of mass media, and popular opinion turned. Slavery wasn't an option, so we tried espionage (CIA) and even old-school mercenaries (Gulf War I) to protect businesses interests .

      The uber-rich aren't going to stop trying to protect "their" property, but with the Internet turning media upside-down, it will be harder than ever to get the poor to agree to conscription, crusades or even merc work. Using trade embargoes via the WTO is probably better than outright war for this purpose, so long as they don't embargo to the point of mass starvation.

      (For the record: I'm not anti-capitalist. Humanity just sucks when it comes to war and money. A progressive capitalism in which you can get rich but you can't take it with you [high inheritance tax to fund education of the poor] sounds most appealing to me.)

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        The WTO is certainly among the lesser evils. In the old-old days, when the uber-wealthy wanted to protect their property rights, they had to hire mercenaries. It was cruel, but at least it was honest.

        Today, whole nations go to war over economic goals. Clearly, progress has brought us to a better world.

  • I Guess That Means (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:31AM (#31345138) Homepage Journal
    China must have called their bluff and won the first round. Now that "we'll leave if you don't change your ways" is off the table, Google's hand is a lot weaker. At this point I expect them to run around for another few months, pretend that they're actually trying to do something that will work, eventually declare "victory" and continue on in China like none of this ever happened.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by areusche (1297613)
      I recently got into an argument with a politics major over how the US just can't simply ignore human rights violations and blatant censorship in China. As long as investors have a dedicated financial investment in China our leaders will ignore the problems or send the military out and enforce our will. As long as there is a TON of money be made in China on cheap labor then we will never ever stop investing in China. This sounds like Google trying to say, " We don't like what China is doing. So if we can'
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Well the bluff continues. Right now Google (a big successful company that a lot ofmanager listen to) basically says "foreigners are not allowed to do profit in China". Don't you think this can have repercussions on foreign investments ?
    • Called their bluff by letting them continue to run Google.cn with censorship turned off? That works for me.

  • by Conzar (1603461)
    In response China should petition the World Trade Organisation to recognise USA's patents and copyrigt as an unfair barrier to trade.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ogive17 (691899)
      Why? China doesn't pay heed to them anyway. In fact, China actually makes money from the process of stealing IP now.
  • Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by srussia (884021) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:40AM (#31345250)
    "Gentlemen, you can't just do whatever you want, this is free trade!"
    • by mosb1000 (710161)
      In all fairness, the goal of the WTO is to prevent government barriers to free trade. That means it's necessarily going to be an infringement on a state's freedom. As with any governmental organization, it means giving up certain freedoms on the theory that the benefits will be greater, and as a member state, China is bound by those rules. You would think that the Chinese government would be OK with the arrangement, since it's the same kind of agreement that they have with their citizens.
  • Hooray for Google (Score:3, Informative)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:49AM (#31345378)

    ... for pressuring the disgusting and odious Chinese government. The Chinese are big on 'face', and maybe -- just maybe -- they can be shamed into adopting international standards of decent behaviour.

    Ideally, what China really needs is a Hungarian-style transition to civilized, responsible democratic government, although I suppose piecemeal reform could rate a (distant) second place.

    • by Twigmon (1095941)

      Ooh! This looks very interesting from an Australian Internet filter perspective. Google recently replied very abruptly when Stephen Conroy said he would like Google to start filtering Youtube for Australian visitors.

      I would love to see the US start to pressure Australia as well!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:52AM (#31345428)

    So when we start working against censorship in Italy? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_Italy#During_Berlusconi.27s_era_.281992-present.29

  • At least it's something worthwhile for the US Trade Reps to do, rather than secretly negotiating ACTA."

    You fail to understand how govenrment works. They will not re-assign "US Tarde Reps" from their vital-to-national-security role in the ongoing ACTA negotiations. They will simply hire more "US Trade Reps" and raise taxes to pay for them. Since this will also mean at least the appearance of increased taxes on Disneywood, Disneywood will move more jobs offshore AND raise prices on their fine products. The increased local unemployment will require local govenrments to hire more workers to deal with the unem

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @11:25AM (#31345928)

    It would be great if this came to pass, but it wont. First, you're going to have a hard time getting China to do anything particularly when the people themselves believe that censorship is sometimes necessary. But more importantly, most companies couldn't care less. What they want is cheap manufacturing and some level of experience. China provides both while other developing nations can't yet meet these needs.

    And China is a great target for passing the buck. Anything goes wrong with your product blame the Chinese manufacturers. When some of Mattel's toys were found to have a variety of problems what did they do? Blame China. Everyone completely overlooked the fact that Mattel should be directly involved in overseeing the manufacturing of their own products. But why should they care? The whole point of going to China to begin with was to cut costs.

    If most companies don't care about the kind the quality of the stuff they sell us why the hell would they care about what China does on its own soil? And currently China is in a situation where it can throw its weight around. Perhaps when India and Southeast Asia are much stronger competitors to China things will change because at that point it will become more apparent that the world doesn't really need China. But of course, that really isn't going to help the case for China easing up on its own people.

    And like I've stated, most Chinese don't think there's a problem at all. Frankly, there are far greater atrocities taking place around the world that Google should be speaking up about.

    • by bomcha (1672066)
      I totally agree with you...The recent cases of apple throwing it's weight around on manufacturers not complying with their policies of not hiring underage workers.It is the company that is responsible not the place where it is. Every country does some kind of censorship,in case of China,they are just doing it for they don't want any more bloodshed.Will not uncensoring of Tiananmen square bring unrest to China and hence the bloodshed.
  • When are we going to get around to dealing with their blatant price fixing through currency manipulation? Seems like that's another thing China likes to do that the WTO is meant to prevent.
  • Don't local Chinese companies that compete with Google, such as Baidu, have to comply with the same censorship restrictions? For it to be an unfair trade barrier, don't local companies have to be treated differently?

    For example, in Canada food products must be labelled in both English and French. A US company with US-produced food goods must use different packaging that complies with this law to import those goods into Canada, or, as is often the case, slap a sticker that meets the minimum requirements o

  • This seems to me more like a rerun of MPAA lobbying US for piratebay...except in this case it is google lobbying US for the China censorship.Why are they making such a fuss now...why dint they make it long back...google's "no evil" is a joke.
  • The law applies to both chinese and foreign companies. Good luck anyway!

  • Really, what does it MEAN that google is leaving china? So what if they are not there. Google keeps the .cn domain google.cn and it will resolve to somewhere in california or probably Japan since it's closer. Unless the Chinese gov blocks ALL access to google worldwide why would Baidu all of a sudden get all of Google's search biz? China can censor it themselves if they want, google does not have to have anything to do with it.

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