Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Censorship Google Government

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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Brinksmanship Continues In Google-China Row Over Censorship

Comments Filter:
  • by Jeian (409916) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:33PM (#31466392)

    It's nice that they're taking a stand, even if the gap will be filled by Baidu fairly quickly.

    • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:48PM (#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 JWW (79176) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:11PM (#31466688)

        I totally agree. Google is taking a stand for freedom on the internet here and it will hurt their business. Microsoft doesn't give a shit about freedom and will increase their business.

        People need to really look at what companies do and judge who they should do business with or not. If Microsoft will be willing to sell the internet freedoms of Chinese citizens down the river for a buck, whats to say that someday they won't sell the internet freedoms of American citizens too?

        • by timmarhy (659436)
          will it hurt their business though? the chinese can still access google.com at the end of the day, and they aren't even closing their offices. this all seems like some pointless politcal dick measuring contest.
    • by Avin22 (1438931) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:50PM (#31466534)
      There was a recent slashdot story on this. The common person in China probably will not see too much of a difference with Google gone, since they do have Baidu, but scientists and researchers will since they rely heavily on Google Scholar, which China has yet to reproduce their own version of.
      • by Redlazer (786403) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:53PM (#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 Pinhedd (1661735)
        you mean they haven't copied one yet
      • This isn't a problem. They are closing down the localized version of Google.cn only. Unless the Powers That Be decide to completely block access to Google.com (individual content wouldn't be blocked unless it was "objectionable", and most content on Google Scholar is decidedly apolitical), Chinese scholars can just use the English version. Many of them have decent English, or have access to grad students with decent English. So again, no big loss unless they somehow lose access to the English Google sch

      • Actually, Google is by far more popular than Baidu amongst younger people here. I asked a class of my Chinese students if they use Baidu, and they all laughed and told me that they love Google. They were worried about Google leaving, which prompted the question in the first place. Just the other day, a fellow teacher said, "Thank God for Google," because they depend on the site so much.

        Baidu is still more popular overall, but much of this is due to the large number of people overall who use the Internet. F
    • I agree. This is about important principles. It is nice to see them recognize this.

    • by dov_0 (1438253)

      I really don't see that China has anything much to lose over this. Google had some pretty staunch competition anyway from Baidu, which seems to be like a combination of google, youtube and wikipedia, set for the Chinese market.

      China is well within it's rights as a sovereign nation to govern it's people in the way it sees fit. We may not agree with all of it's measures, but we don't have to! Google, as a foreign company, should keep it's nose out of Chinese politics.

    • by mzs (595629)

      You know one of the founders of Google is named "Sergey" and I bet that has a lot to do with why they are taking this stance. I commend them.

  • Is Google actually delivering on their "Don't be evil" thing?

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by grcumb (781340) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:55PM (#31467484) Homepage Journal

      Is Google actually delivering on their "Don't be evil" thing?

      It's Sergei, mostly.

      Can't find the reference right now, but there's a story out there in which it's posited that his childhood experience in the Soviet Union left him with an aversion to coercive state power. He allowed himself to be talked into going into China by Schmidt and Page, but when it became clear that China was using them to target human rights activists, Sergei baulked.

      Having agreed at the outset to put limits on what they would put up with from China, Larry and Eric had no choice but to go along when Sergei insisted that they retaliate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zappepcs (820751)

        I thought I had remembered that too. One of those fun-filled-but-fail-at-a-party facts I have stuffed away. The boys still own Google, or enough of it to decide it's course over any objections by share holders et al.

        I feel certain that if Google pulls out of China, they're fucked, so to speak. How then can MS or Yahoo be seen as non-corrupt if they stay? While it's political in nature it has a certain PR value to it as well. Baidu, while fairly well used is basically by Chinese, for Chinese, about Chinese.

      • How long though until some major pension fund or investment house files a lawsuit citing that by pulling out of the largest potential market in the 21st century is a fiduciary breach of responsibility to make money for the shareholder?

  • Do It (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LearnToSpell (694184) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:36PM (#31466420) Homepage
    This is where you put your money where your mouth is, Google. You always want chances to prove your little slogan. Here's a great opportunity to change some people's minds who think you've grown into Everycorp.
    • there a public company now...
      "don't be evil" now means don't lose the shareholders money, what did you think it mean?
  • What changed? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hufman (1670590) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @04:40PM (#31466458)
    What changed? They used to be fine with censoring their results. Surely a little bit of hacking wouldn't change morals that much; what else has changed?
    • Re:What changed? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by skine (1524819) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:06PM (#31466660)

      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."

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

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:50PM (#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 hkmwbz (531650)
          What prevents Google from being hacked after pulling out of China? The internet is, you know, global and all... Why would Chinese hackers be limited to operating in China?
          • What prevents Google from being hacked after pulling out of China? The internet is, you know, global and all... Why would Chinese hackers be limited to operating in China?

            Nothing. But at least Google is no longer helping the people who are hurting them. Plus, if they do retaliate, none of Google's people are subject to arrest.

    • Re:What changed? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pizzap (1253052) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:05PM (#31467116)
      No, I don't think they ever liked it. From the start Google wasn't offering all its products and had a differianted position on the state censoring and human rights violations. They werren't offering blogs, for example, since they didn't want to cooperate with the chinese police on that issue. This was stated publicly by Google. Competing with a state owned search gigant, while the same state steals your property, can't be much fun for Google.
    • It was the balance of argument at Google headquarters that changed. Apparently Sergey Brin (who was born in the Soviet Union) has always been fairly opposed to censoring search results, while Eric Schmidt has been in favor of it. Originally Sergey was convinced to go along with it, although reluctantly. Once China started hacking their servers, it really seems to have bugged Sergey, and suddenly he was no longer convinced to go along with it. That's the kind of thing that happens when you have more than
      • by yuhong (1378501)
        Yep, I had a slashdot submission on this that got accepted. In fact, just yesterday this got published by the WSJ:
        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703447104575118092158730502.html [wsj.com]
      • by gtall (79522)

        I don't think it is fair to say Eric Schmidt is in favor of censoring. The problem is that he doesn't appear to see anything seriously wrong with it, certainly not from a moral point of view. He is, after all, the CEO of one of the most privacy puncturing businesses the world has ever seen. Where I think the issue arose is that if you are in the business of puncturing privacy, then censoring means walling off something you'd like to get your hands on, i.e., people's data as a window into what kind of advert

    • 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.

      I don't know how one would call this strategy a "pull out". That's more "into the market" than before google.cn was established in a time when Chinese users just used google.com directly and that Google could not sell ads directly in China. Only the job of censoring is just shift from google back to the Great Firewall. Neither side seems to lose anything and both sides can now claim victory. "Don't do evils, just collect money and let others do the evils"

      Maybe google now becomes more popular in China than

    • Google has a backdoor for US intelligence. China does not want this - maybe unless they also have access to Google in the US.

      .

      Big uproar of a hack on Google makes Google stop Chinese eavesdropping on Google-US.

      Google does not block their backdoor on their services in China for US -

      consequence: either comply for a level field or leave the field.

      .

      I think it is not about a few dissidents, that is what the US services want the world to think!

  • So? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • While I'm fairly certain that google doing this is the right thing to do, I don't see how this hurts China. It would be trivial (read: a matter of trivia, not necessarily super easy, but it has obviously been done before, and is a known process) to have a new emerging search engine for China.
    Google could stay there and stay on top because they have the best product (for now). If they leave the market, something will fill the vacuum and profit greatly from the billion.s of people in China.
    I don't think China has much to lose here, I'm curious as to whether or not someone has a good convincing argument to the contrary?
  • From the article:

    "It’s very important to know we are not pulling out of China"

    At most, it appears they would stop offering search services.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LockeOnLogic (723968)
      The search services are the part that pertains to censorship. Google isn't severing business ties, they are refusing to facilitate censorship.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's funny, I don't recall Microsoft ever having this kind of pull, to be able to influence the market on a political level. But everyone uses Windows so I guess they're in for the profit all the way. Google apparently is a little different.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jenming (37265)

      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

    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 billio

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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? T

  • by Capena (1713520) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:27PM (#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)?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

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

      Are you ok with that?

      • by Capena (1713520)
        I don't support censorship, but if Google leaves China's internet will still be censored, only by Baidu instead of Google.
    • Silence is consent (Score:2, Insightful)

      by symbolset (646467)
      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 Capena (1713520)
        It's a shame they can't hang in there though. The censorship situation might be different in 10 or 20 years, but winning back substantial market share after everyone uses Baidu might be impossible.
    • by selven (1556643)

      It is perfectly possible for the morally correct choice to be against everyone's short term interests. We approve of Google's actions because Google is sticking to their principles and not supporting an evil regime for profit like most other megacorps are inclined to do. In the long term, if more companies follow Google's lead, it will teach the Chinese government that the civilized world will not support their policies and they will change their ways, even if out of self-interest.

    • Heh; I know some friends in China at BING, and it seems like their doors are wide open to take on any Google China employees who are looking for a job.
  • by wehup (567821)
    Could Google not go on the offensive by listing censored results and providing a link that leads not to the censored content, but to a page explaining that the government is afraid of the content?
  • My humnle theory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trifish (826353) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:42PM (#31466920)

    What this is all about.

    Recently quit a lot of independent security researchers and companies showed evidence that if you do any kind of business in China, you are BOUND to be hacked by "someone" from China. They also said that there is no defence against it (the China attacks will eventually always succeed).

    Google was one of the victims of such attacks. They considered the facts. What do we get by doing business in China?

    1) Small market share (the Chinese search engine Baidu dominates the search engine market in China)

    2) Trojans on our internal networks.

    Let's give up (because of 1 and 2). But let's do it in a way that wins us PR points. Let's do it in a way that makes us look good. Like, true fighters for freedom.

    Let's tell them we're not going to obey their laws and regulations. We (Google) KNOW that they will not allow us to get away with that. But we don't care, because we've decided to leave anyway.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Small market share"? There are ~300 million internet users in China. Google has about a third of the search market. 100 million users is not small by any measure.

      In five years' time, a third of the China search market will be bigger than the whole US market.

  • Like google or not, it's good to see a business stand up to the Chinese government.
  • 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.

    I don't know how one would call this strategy a "pull out". That's more "into the market" than before google.cn was established in a time when Chinese users just used google.com directly and that Google could not sell ads directly in China. Only the job of censoring is just shift from google to the Great Firewall. Neither side seems to lose anything and both sides can now claim victory. "Don't do evils, just collect money and let others do the evils" Very creative marketing move!

  • by leaving, but they will earn immense PR and public support all around the world that will have far reaching consequences. economically, technically, and due to recent trends, politically.

  • by SlappyBastard (961143) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:15PM (#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.
  • Down here we need a little help. The issue is just not really even impinging on public consciousness. I hope Google takes this stand elsewhere and gives some other countries who are warming to the idea of total control over information flow in their countries something to think about. (Yes, I know it won't happen).
    • I hope Google takes this stand elsewhere and gives some other countries who are warming to the idea of total control over information flow in their countries something to think about. (Yes, I know it won't happen).

      Google is an incredibly valuable resource to pretty much every Internet-capable country on this planet. Consequently, the threat of pulling out of a country is a very real one. It's real to China, you can bank on that. The don't currently have a viable alternative to a number of Google's services. Oh, they can certainly duplicate them at some point in the future, but the loss of Google will hurt now. Other countries which do not now, and will probably never have, an alternative to Google are far more likely

      • Yes. Part of what makes the internet so useful is the 'network effect'. If China loses access to Google's indexes of all the European and US produced information (arguably superior to Baidu's now, and probably will remain so in the future) then they do actually lose the full benefits of the network effect. Now there is an interesting philosophical bit here. Google knows while it is in China it must obey Chinese Law and sovereignty. Rather than break the law they are faced with a dilemma of what to do. They
    • They already told Conroy to just fuck off when he proposed they filter YouTube for him.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss

Working...