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Sergey Brin On Google and China 368

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the to-famous-for-slashdot dept.
yuhong writes "The NY Times has an interview with Sergey Brin on Google and China. A few quotes from it: 'Mr. Brin lived in the Soviet Union until he was nearly 6 years old, and he said the experience of living under a totalitarian system that censored political speech influenced his thinking — and Google's policy. "It has definitely shaped my views, and some of my company's views," he said.' Yes, business is personal, especially these days."
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Sergey Brin On Google and China

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:40AM (#31596772)

    Must have left an real impression having the Cat in the Hat censored

  • Anger? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mahiskali (1410019) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:42AM (#31596788)

    Seems like the Chinese government may be winning here. They clearly are great at enticing (forcing?) a sense of nationalism and pride [bbc.co.uk] in their people. Amazing how quickly some are turning on Google as if this is entirely their own fault and doing. Now we wait to see if the US Government tries to step in...oh what a show this is becoming.

  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:50AM (#31596852)

    Good on Sergey & Google. To those clods who will joke about how a six year old can be influenced let me just say I remember when the Berlin Wall was erected. I was six years old and although I don't remember the political details I vividly recall seeing a front page photo in the Detroit News that showed what Woodward Avenue (the main street in downtown Detroit) would look like if the Wall had been built right down the center. It scared the crap out of me then even without knowing why and it remains an image that has stayed with me. Of *course* Sergey was affected.

  • Re:Anger? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:54AM (#31596894)

    The Hong Kong move pretty much nukes that strategy. Now China is allowing access to some of its citizens, but not others. Google is not at fault for the blocking.

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:00AM (#31596976) Homepage Journal

    Funny how people are spinning this as if telling the second most powerful government on Earth to go fuck itself is the desperate act of an injured victim.

    I challenge you to find evidence that they were ever happy with the terms that allowed them to operate in China.

  • by genka (148122) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:07AM (#31597068) Homepage Journal
    As someone who lived in Soviet Union until it's collapse in 92 (I was 25) I can tell you that fear was not a fact of everyday life. Generally you didn't feel much more under control than in US. You couldn't say certain negative things about Party and government in public, but in private conversations everything was discussed freely. It is the same as in states- try to voice politically incorrect opinions about race in your place of work, and you will see how "freedom of speech" will protect you. We have more freedom in US as compared to USSR or China, but don't overestimate it.
  • by elnyka (803306) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:09AM (#31597098) Homepage

    Must have left an real impression having the Cat in the Hat censored

    How much free speech do you need at age 6? How about being free of saying that your parents are Jewish, or that your parents are, say novelists or scientists or whatever who happen to be censored by the party without having your teacher telling you to shut up (at best) or sending you into the corner because your parents are traitor, counter revolutionary, dogs or some other shit while all the other kids laugh at you (at worst)?

    Seriously man. That is a really stupid question.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:11AM (#31597132) Homepage

    I can confirm that.

    Also after 22 years in USSR and 16 years in US, I can assure everyone that I feel more oppressed in US than I ever did in USSR -- if for no other reason then because US imposes on me a culture different from my own, while in USSR I at very least had the luxury of having my native culture being forced on myself. I realize that for Americans it would be the other way around, but this is the only real difference for a person who is not a professional politician.

  • 6 years old (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raind (174356) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:15AM (#31597154)

    Was he at 6 years even know where or what the politics of the country was? If so wow.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:18AM (#31597182) Homepage

    Why did Google initially agree to censor search results in the first place if this was their philosophy?

    Because Google isn't a monolithic entity with a singular set of unified values? Instead, it's an organization of individuals, with varying viewpoints, and those individuals will wield different levels of power at different times.

    In this particular case, my money is on Schmidt and the board overriding Larry and Sergei on the censorship issue based on the obvious business case of moving into China. Plus, they may have been able to rationalize the move by telling themselves that they might be able to do some good in the country by operating there (many people who criticize Google for threatening to leave China do so based on precisely this principle).

    But now that there's an obvious business reason *not* to operate in China (the threat of being hacked by individuals whose actions may or may not have been sanctioned by the government), Larry and Sergei find themselves in the position to steer Google, the organization, in a different direction.

    At least, that's my read of the situation. But I'm obviously biased, in that I don't start off with the supposition that Google is a fundamentally evil, heartless, money-grubbing mega-corporation that's willing to do anything for a buck, as so many around here seem to think.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:19AM (#31597194)

    And unlike Yahoo & Microsoft, even when operating in China they never provided details of Chinese clients to the government.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:27AM (#31597326) Homepage
    To China, Google might as well be an arm of the federal government. When Google does something, it's not one private company that did it, but all of America that did it. It's actually a quite frightening 19th century attitude. Mark my words, China will be the Germany of the 21st century. Recently unified, recently economically powerful, a deep sense of historical humiliation (the Opium Wars and the Eight Nations might just as well have existed yesterday and yes people really feel this way), and a government that views building the military as a method of gaining prestige in the world. HMS Dreadnought came about because of a Germany-inspired arms race at sea. China, very very much wants to humiliate America and have the world bow Obama-style and call China "teacher". You know how open source zealots seize every opportunity to trash corporations? Even the flimsiest excuse will do, and if they don't have an excuse they'll just make one up. This is what China is doing with Google. The story is that American companies are trying to pollute Chinese society with pornography and separatism, and they feel themselves above Chinese law. Of course, we just see a CEO grandstanding so he can feel good about himself and appear at awards dinners to accept "ethics" trophies. The real casualties in this mess are the other Americans who have to deal with the fallout. But screw them, eh, Sergey?
  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:40AM (#31597526) Homepage

    How can your "native culture" be truly yours if it was "forced" on you? How too can exposure to different cultures within the US be construed as "imposed" on you?

    I realize (in retrospect) that when I grew up I didn't really have a choice, which culture to accept, so my set of values is consistent with what was popular in USSR at the time of my childhood, so local culture and government didn't seem like they force on me anything I don't want in the first place. This is the primary reason why I did not feel oppressed there but do feel oppressed in US.

    More importantly, Americans believe that they are "free" only because they live in the same country that imposes the same basic culture and ideology on everyone (usually slightly decorated with some crude ethnic/racial flavor but the same at the core). Nevertheless this is not actually freedom -- it would be freedom if they were just as comfortable if they did not share the same values, and my experience shows that a person with different background feels extremely uncomfortable and oppressed here.

    Objectively, both USSR and US societies were/are very strict in values, beliefs and ideology imposed on their members -- there are "sacred" ideas that, if attacked effectively and in a public manner, would earn a person ostracism and persecution. It's less visible because it applies only to things that are public and effective, and both societies had also wildly different standards on what is "public" and what can be "effective".

  • Re:6 years old (Score:5, Interesting)

    by funwithBSD (245349) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:40AM (#31597536)

    I could have modded, but I rather post on this one.

    My first wife was from Czechsolvakia. At 6, she definitely knew the impact of the Communist regime she lived under. (I found out later her father was an honest to god Nazi Youth during the occupation. That is in part why they were so prosecuted by the Party)

    I clearly remember the Nixon resignation which happened when I was 5, and the Carter administration/hyperinflation. (I can still recall hearing that at current rates bread would be $300 a loaf in 10 years, and I knew that was more than my parents mortgage)
    I remember discussing both at length with my uncle, who I still have long political discussions with on a regular basis.

    For some people, it is a integral part of our lives to pay attention to politics and social issues.

  • by Critical Facilities (850111) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:50AM (#31597682) Homepage

    Americans believe that they are "free" only because they live in the same country that imposes the same basic culture and ideology on everyone (usually slightly decorated with some crude ethnic/racial flavor but the same at the core). Nevertheless this is not actually freedom

    With respect, can I ask what culture it is that you're feeling is being imposed on you and/or all Americans? To be sure, I'm not at all claiming to know what it's like to have grown up or spent any time living anywhere other than the US (I just want to be sure I'm not misleading you). I'm also not at all trying to claim that the US is some Utopian dream of perfect tolerance and harmony. I do, however, feel that the US has quite a varied culture, which is one of the things that (in my opinion) makes our country both great and sometimes contentious. There are absolutely pockets of intolerance all over our country (try being anything other than Christian in the South for example), but to extend this idea to one that blankets the country as a whole is slightly disingenuous (even if it's unintentionally so).

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:35AM (#31598358)

    For someone as educated, successful, and intelligent as Mr. Brin, he sounds awfully ignorant. China is not the Soviet Union; USSR did not have 1.2B people.

    If you want to do business in another country you have to follow that country's laws, customs, and culture--doesn't matter if you agree with them or not. If you can't accepted that then don't do business there, and don't mask your own business failure as a political issue. It's childish, immature, and neo-imperialism to walk into other people's country and expect to be #1 just because you're from the US. I'm sure US wouldn't appreciate it if a Middle-Eastern company comes in and start criticizing how US women don't wear head scarfs at work.

    Western companies will have to compete and do actual hard work to win--it's not hard work to outsource the actual thinking and doing to India and China and exepct you can just manage your way to success. Years ago when Japanese car companies came to the US what did the US companies do when they don't want to compete head-on? They whine about Japanese gov't subsidies, the unfair business environment, the manipulation of currency--instead of improve quality they used politics and now we see the consequence of that in GM and Chrysler.

    Google needs to understand why Baidu is used more than Google. Is it because Baidu offers a little bit more of the things Chinese users want? Is it because Baidu is more culturally in-tune and Google is really just an extension of US culture? A search engine is just a search engine every tech company has that technology--Bing has it, Baidu has it. Sure underneathe maybe Google runs better but is it really that noticeable? Google is worshipped in its home market because of this technology aura. In other countries it's just another search enigine. How about instead of expecting people to flock to you, turn the table around: sponsor schools, give out encyclopedia to school kids, etc. Think outside of the box instead of just trading on the Google name.

  • Not impressed. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:05PM (#31598924)

    The attitude prevalent around here seems to be one of gushing praise towards Google, like they've completely defied the Chinese government and are standing by their principles. Really, the only difference this move affords Google is that they are no longer mandated by the Chinese government to censor their search. It now falls on the Chinese government to do whatever they want to do.

    Google hasn't actually left mainland China. Their research and sales divisions have remained behind. And their map services, music portal and Gmail servers all remain in China. So I'm left with the impression that this is a publicity stunt likely driven by a number of business-related issues. Gmail hosting remaining on the mainland doesn't even address one of the issues of spying on users.

    Certainly, such a public action does make a statement, but I wouldn't necessarily consider Google principled any more than any other corporation. Profits are still king and they aren't willing to give up China.

  • by skynexus (778600) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:40PM (#31599462)

    Just wanted to point out this little tibit regarding the Pledge of Allegiance [wikipedia.org]:

    The Pledge is predominantly sworn by children in public schools in response to state laws requiring the Pledge to be offered.

    That is, teaching loyalty to the state at an early age is not just typical of totalitarian states, for better or for worse. Not to belittle your criticism of the Sandinista regime, of course.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:40PM (#31599466) Journal

    It was still USSR when I was in the kindergarten, and I do recall from my experience there that the correct answer to the question "Who is the person you should love most in the world?" is "Lenin", not "mom".

    Is it oppression? You bet. Problem is, you don't know if you have nothing to compare it to.

    My mother told me that she also really believed in all the crap they've fed them back in her pioner and Comsomol days. If anyone would have asked her if she'd want to leave USSR and move to US back then, she would consider the person downright insane - why would she ever want to live in a country with rampant racism and pervasive exploitation, when she can enjoy all the glorious achievements of socialism?

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:58PM (#31599752) Homepage

    It sounds like you need to do some more shopping around between subcultures. Maybe it's because I spent a lot of time in college towns or because I grew up in Northern California, but I'm used to seeing two things that contradict your claims.

    I am in Berkeley [, you insensitive clod!] That's probably the closest -- and yet way, way outside of what actually would be acceptable.

    1) People from radically different cultures who moved to the United States and feel they're more able to practice their own culture here than back in India, China, Indonesia, etc., because in their homeland they were part of an offshoot culture than was frowned upon, while in their new homes that's absolutely welcomed.

    Only if their culture is fringe at home, and is still fringe here -- except only at home they are taken seriously, so people don't bother to express direct hostility toward them in US. Those people who believe that they "practice their own culture" in US are deluding themselves -- their lives only exist in context of American society that follows rules and system of values that is specific to US. They can "practice their own culture" as a hobby or (and usually only) as a religious cult that no one cares about -- this is not "culture", this is thin veneer of a culture over their entirely American lives. Yes, that includes how Russian culture "exists" in US -- forgive me, I forgot to bring my knife, thick accent, bottle of vodka and two liters of sweat. I don't want this and would be insulted to reduce my cultural background to such a freak show.

    2) People from the United States who hold very different values from the prevailing national/regional/local views, who are quite happy with their freedom to be different. I've also lived places in the U.S. where that's not the case, but usually that's been my experience.

    American society is actually very much homogenized. Differences are superficial and mostly based on racial diversity, and racism that keeps people of the same race together, thus forming a "subculture" with no unique values. For example, if you look at Black/African American culture (that formed entirely over the history of US) it's clear that there are plenty of superficial differences but at its core it's exactly the same as culture of, say, white Protestants, except adapted to being discriminated against, and developed in relatively closed communities. For white American, especially one who adopted racial stereotype it looks "different" or even hostile, but most goals, values and ideas are exactly the same. Many other subcultures have the same fundamental nature, even if not based on ethnicity.

    What bothers me most, American geek/nerd subculture, that I am supposed to be associated with, is still very close to mainstream, however mainstream treats it with such a ferocious hostility, I can never understand such a situation. For me American society looks like this Star Trek episode [startrek.com] -- groups that I can barely recognize as different treat each other as complete opposites of themselves, and they don't realize just how far I am from all of them.

    There's a lot of room here for vegans, people who hate television, people who are only interested in Chinese music, people who want to have no friends, people who never want to be alone,

    Vegans? Hate television? That's not what a culture is about.

    socialists, anarchists, conservatives, libertarians,

    There are no "socialists" in US. American "socialist" would be welcome in the second-from-the right party anywhere else in the world -- and it's usually only second from the right because first would be basically Nazi. In USSR Communists wouldn't recognize him as belonging to a related movement. Politics is one of the area where only a very narrow range of opinion is tolerated in serious public discourse. "Libert

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @01:26PM (#31600222) Homepage

    There may have been a brief period of McCarthyism, but objectively there were no American gulags.

    First and foremost, GULAG HAS NO PLURAL. It makes very easy to recognize Americans who pretend to be Russians or whose propaganda writings are translated into Russian, by this error that any Russian would notice -- as "GULAG" is an abbreviation for "Department of [Penitentiary] Camps" in Russian. It also shows that most Americans not only are only familiar with USSR labor camps through one book by Solzhenitsyn, they also limited their knowledge of that book to its title.

    Second, US definitely had prison camps of various kinds, most egregiously camps for Japanese Americans during WWII, however currently operating Guantanamo Bay camp and various outsourced torture programs are also notable. Conditions in many American prisons are actually worse than most of what GULAG prisoners experienced -- if given a choice, I would rather cut trees in Siberian forest surrounded by intimidating-looking armed guards than be raped or stabbed by homemade knives. US also has long history of political prisoners, likely politically motivated assassinations, plus things that not even Stalin dared to do such as genocide (shut up, Robert Conquest readers).

    USSR also did not inflict on its population a tiny fraction of death and misery that was caused by black slavery in the South, wage slavery everywhere, shitty social programs and a kind of "health insurance" that, if implemented in USSR, would get Kremlin overrun by angry crowds.

  • by genka (148122) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:20PM (#31601076) Homepage Journal
    I merely wanted to point that Americans need to watch what they say and where they say it almost like it was in USSR. I know that this is not a constitutionally protected speech, but my post was meant as an answer to "feeling of fear" statement. It was no fear, if one knew when to keep his/her mouth shut. The Soviet regime was evil, but not to a degree imagined by many people here. Not in 1970s or 80s anyway.

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