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Brinksmanship Continues In Google-China Row Over Censorship 133

Posted by timothy
from the should-I-stay-or-should-I-lost-carrier dept.
According to The Financial Times, "Google has drawn up detailed plans for the closure of its Chinese search engine and is now '99.9 per cent' certain to go ahead [with the closure] as talks over censorship with the Chinese authorities have reached an apparent impasse, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking. In a hardening of positions on both sides, the Chinese government also on Friday threw down a direct public challenge to the US search company, with a warning that it was not prepared to compromise on internet censorship to stop Google leaving." "99.9 per cent" or not, both sides say they'd actually like Google to remain in China, but neither is willing to bend publicly on the question of censorship. If Google closes google.cn, as now seems likely, it could still maintain its R&D office in Beijing and its sales force, who sell ads on google.com targeted into China.
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Brinksmanship Continues In Google-China Row Over Censorship

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  • So? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @03:43PM (#31466480)

    Why should China care if Google goes or stays? All China has to do is checkout the source code from the internal Google repository, and build their own.

  • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @03:48PM (#31466516) Journal

    Microsoft will move aggressively to fill the void, promising to proactively censor results AND to report people entering 'improper' terms into Bing.

    They will do anything to get another fraction of a percentage point for market share.

  • by Jenming (37265) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:13PM (#31466710)

    I don't think its Google's intention to hurt China. To me it just seems they don't want to do business in a country that pushes them around.

  • by Jenming (37265) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:14PM (#31466722)

    I am not sure what pull you are talking about. Google threatened to leave China if they didn't stop censoring, China told them they are free to go.

    Thats not a lot of pull in my book.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:25PM (#31466802)

    They should not have publicized charges against the Chinese government when they had no actual proof of their involvement. By doing so, it makes Google look like they're taking advantage of a situation in order to attempt extralegal government reform. If that play failed, they had the choice of either kowtowing in apology or going home. Neither really does much for their profile. They had no contingency and now they've lost both the opportunity to be a force of reform in China and their stake in that billion-plus market. In contrast, the Chinese government walks away from this almost entirely unharmed. Their censorship policies are already known so they lose nothing in that regard. They were only asking that the company obey the laws that every other company must obey. And their argument need only be that, surely, Google is not suggesting that it is above the law?

    Google went public too early, before they had the means to prove their case and without thinking about the strength of their position. They foolishly thought that the incident itself and an accompanying accusation would be enough for a foreign company to topple government policy.

  • by Capena (1713520) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:27PM (#31466820)
    If they can't get the government to stop censorship, what is the point of Google pulling out of China? It looks like the result of Google's actions will be:
    - there is less search engine choice in China
    - (presumably) some people from Google China will lose their jobs

    It would be completely different if Google was so important that they could force the Chinese government to do what they want. But they are not even the biggest search engine in China. Why is everyone acting like Google is doing the right thing, when it seems like what they are doing will be bad for everyone involved (the employees, users, and shareholders)?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:41PM (#31466910)

    Standing up for your principals isn't about doing what's convenient or causing the least damage. China has been very concerned in the last decade about being part of the global community. Imagine if every company took the same path as google and essentially shut china off from the internet outside their country. They would get the message.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:48PM (#31466980)

    In my country, it is completely illegal to search for the word "Capena" or the phrase "government corruption".

    Are you ok with that?

  • Re:What changed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:50PM (#31466998)

    I'm a bit of a cynic, but it seems to me that Google wanted to leave China after they were hacked, and made an unreasonable (in context) offer to China in order to make the Chinese look like the "bad guys" and Google look like the "good guys."

    Getting hacked by state-sponsored hackers seems like enough of a reason all on its own, no need to make up another one.

    Seems more like an attempt to use the hacking as leverage to reduce censorship requirements as in "you hacked us, we're leaving unless you cut restrictions on our business."

  • by Redlazer (786403) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:53PM (#31467026) Homepage
    But that's the best part of Google leaving.

    Anything that rusts the machinery of their fucked government is better. Scientists losing access to important/useful data? This is good news, as it will slow them down. Hopefully, it will be one of many things that will affect change in the country. The first domino, or perhaps, just the middle domino?

  • by kegon (766647) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:02PM (#31467090)

    I've got no love for Google, they are merely the next hegemony as far as I am concerned. I think it's excessive to say that "Google lost in China". They entered the market late against entrenched local competition. They will always be seen as the face of USA Inc. rather than an independent or local company: they can't play the friendly local card, they will always be the big bad foreigners.

    Google wants to be the international search engine, but there is a lot more effort to filter out "inappropriate content". I don't know what form the instructions for censorship take but presumably they have some list of vague words or contexts plus possibly numerous requests for "suspicious results" to be removed. All that work must eat into profits.

    Furthermore they believe they are in a hostile climate what with numerous hacking attempts. I can understand why they are thinking to get out. They seem to be doing alright in the rest of the world. Why do you say they have to stay ? Surely they can go off and focus their efforts on something else and come back later ?

  • by TorKlingberg (599697) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:06PM (#31467598)

    China loses because Google is the best search engine, especially for scholarly papers, books and such. Sure they have Baidu, but it is basically the AOL of China; very popular with those who don't know better. University students, engineers, and smart people in general prefer Google, especially when searching in English. I suspect Google leaving China will lead to more people bypassing the filters to get to Google.

    Also, Google has been a symbolically important, and may influence other western companies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:33PM (#31467820)

    I reckon they do have the proof but it cannot be discussed in the public arena, nor probably the private one. To reveal the evidence would expose something you have but don't want to be publicly known. The chinese know this and being the Eastern business entrepreneurs they are, know how to use it best against a Western mind.

    The Chinese government and big steel companies (one and the same really) have been doing this with resource exporting nations for years.

    "The market price for resource_x is $10/unit? That agreement that was signed a year ago to purchase at $13/unit for three years means nothing. The market price is now lower so we want that price." And they get it.

  • by SlappyBastard (961143) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:15PM (#31468142) Homepage
    China has always wanted to build market share for Baidu. The general Chinese diagram of the world ("Us" vs "Barbarians") has never and will never change.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:57PM (#31468458)

    No, Google has a more honest privacy policy. Didn't you read that story about how much information Microsoft has and their policies for turning it over? It was on Wikileaks a while back, I think. That's the problem with people like you. Can't handle honesty, so you punish the guys who are honest and go with the shady guys because they know how to manipulate you into thinking they're trustworthy (even though they're doing everything the other guys are doing and more, just out of the public eye).

    Oh, and it's Chinese law to censor search results. There are *NO* search engines operating in China that don't censor. Bing operates in China, so they censor. They just keep quiet about it, though, and that causes the uninformed to conclude that they're more trustworthy.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:20PM (#31468614) Journal

    China's per-capita GDP is tiny

  • Silence is consent (Score:2, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:45PM (#31468790) Journal
    It's one thing to know you are helpless to stop evil from happening. It's quite another thing to accept it to the point where you participate in it. Google got in there presumably hoping to in some way help turn the course a little bit. If there's no hope they can do that, there's only money. For Bing that might be enough, but apparently for Google it isn't.
  • by Yobgod Ababua (68687) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:57PM (#31468862)

    But... if you're blocking level 0 content, this doesn't help. Repost away...

    I really think people, and certain governments in particular, are completely missing the boat on this issue.

    A good, effective search engine helps authorities find "illicit" content just as effectively as it helps the regular people looking for it.
    Even if you are an oppressive government looking to quell dissension, or a "responsible" government looking to crack down on crime and kiddie porn... having access to good search results would -help- you do so more effectively.

    "But...", the governments cry, "couldn't we block these evil things from the common prole while maintaining a 'privileged' access so -we- could search?"

    No, you can't. The effectiveness of the search results is based on crowdsourcing and the accumulation of access data. Block access and you lose both the data and the effectiveness of your search.
    If, for the sake of argument, you wanted to keep your people from accessing porn, or seditious diatribes against the state, you really should embrace open search engines.
    Let people search and build up the data to efficiently find the things you detest, then you can search too and block those sites at your great National Firewall of Destiny. No matter how sites change addresses, as the people who want to find them find them, they will bubble up in search results, and your official firewall can be updated.

    Effective search engines, like so many things, are in essence morally neutral. You can use them both to free or oppress.

    The big problem the global community is running into is that, at a fundamental level, we simply can't agree on what is reasonable, unacceptable, or even illegal. Perhaps the UN can step up with a minimal set of standards for internet conduct... but otherwise we're sinking deeper into a mire of legal confusion. When The Republic of Republica declares it illegal to post images of the Prime Minister (because that helps steal his soul) or mailboxes (due to privacy concerns and a local mailbox vandalism spree), or panda bears (which local religion holds to be symbolic of pure evil), should German, US, or Chinese search engines purge them from their databases? We are now a globall community... and we are very soon going to need a global set of laws and guidelines.

    Unfortunately, human beings have proven themselves spectacularly bad at coming up with reasonable compromises on such things. (The EU struggles with this regularly, as does the US.) Often this basically means taking the union of everyone's "forbid" list and declaring it forbidden, which obviously ends up depriving most societies of content they see as reasonable and acceptable in the name of pleasing everyone.

  • by henrypijames (669281) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @11:15PM (#31469678) Homepage

    Right, 'cause it's much nicer to do business in countries where corporate can push government around (like in the US of A).

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

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