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Businesses Censorship Google Microsoft Your Rights Online

We're Staying In China, Says Microsoft 249

Posted by Soulskill
from the swinging-the-ethics-bat dept.
ericb tips an article at the Guardian which begins: "Hopes that Google's forthright stand on censorship in China would inspire other companies to follow suit appeared unfounded today, with the move instead threatening to widen the rift between some of the world's most powerful internet companies. Microsoft, which has considerable interests in the country, including its Bing search engine, responded directly to criticism by Google's co-founder Sergey Brin, who this week accused the company of speaking against human rights and free speech. Brin, who pressed for the closing down of Google's self-censored Chinese search engine, said yesterday: 'I'm very disappointed for them in particular. I would hope that larger companies would not put profit ahead of all else. Generally, companies should pay attention to how and where their products are used.' Microsoft rejected Brin's critique, saying it would continue to obey local laws on censorship in China."
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We're Staying In China, Says Microsoft

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:34AM (#31625176) Journal
    Normally the news likes to hand you a big fat moral or ethical dilemma when you find out that your favorite product is made by Big Evil. But this is the best kind of news for me! The kind that further reaffirms my views on my most hated companies!

    Terrible news for the Chinese. Great news for my Down with Microsoft agenda! When you're chewing on life's gristle don't grumble, give a whistle!
  • Torn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tpstigers (1075021) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:39AM (#31625246)
    I'm kind of torn by this whole China/Google/Microsoft thing. While I'm not a fan of the Chinese government, who are we to say what they should and shouldn't allow? Would we want a Chinese company to come into our country and tell our government what to do? While I've seen a great deal of discussion about human rights surrounding these stories, I've seen precious little about sovereignty.
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:41AM (#31625272) Journal

    I think Microsoft probably follows Commodore's Jack Tramiel policy: "Business is war," and in war anything is acceptable. Therefore they would view Google's leaving China as a victory, even if it means going-to-bed with the Chinese Socialist government.

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:43AM (#31625288) Journal

    Selling someone computers is a little less reckless than actually building the gas chamber.

    If they censor results, search engines are doing China’s dirty work for it.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elros (735454) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:46AM (#31625330) Homepage

    No, we wouldn't. That said, we have plenty of commonly used services hosted outside the US for very similar reasons. To remain in China and refuse to sensor results would be illegal. To remain in China and continue to sensor results would be against their ethics. Thus, they followed the remaining option: Leave China.

  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:46AM (#31625342)

    After years of playing ball with China, Google has an epiphany and decides it's evil. Now they condemn anybody else who hasn't come to the same conclusion on their schedule.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:04AM (#31625560)

    Since when is china's government socialist? It is much closer to feudalism for the vast majority of china.

  • Is Brin serious? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cOldhandle (1555485) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:09AM (#31625632)

    'I'm very disappointed for them in particular. I would hope that larger companies would not put profit ahead of all else. Generally, companies should pay attention to how and where their products are used.'

    I find this absolutely hilarious coming from Brin, pretending Google is some sort of moral authority now that they've pulled out of China due to the recent incident, having sold out to the Chinese government for many years previously providing services customized according to the state to oppress its citizens and restrict their access to news and information!

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:09AM (#31625636) Homepage Journal

    Seems kind of thin,
    It happened after the Nazi's took over IBM German subsidiary. Even the reference that they got technology and help from the Polish offices doesn't sound that damming since Germany had already INVADED Poland at the time. I doubt that IBM had any real control over those offices at the time it happened.

    IBM does have a long history of being the meanest nastiest competitor on the planet but I really think trying to blame them for the Holocaust is pretty unfounded.

    The oddest historical hookup I remember how well Ford worked with pre WWII USSR they did all sorts of deals with Stalin and company. Which if you think about it should really make your head hurt.

  • by tcr (39109) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:15AM (#31625720)

    That's a pretty rigid way of looking at it.
     
    Various sources have reported that they were never comfortable operating in China. One faction argued that they would do more good by being there than boycotting China. That argument prevailed for a while, but events overtook, and another faction got their way - hence the pullout. It isn't an Apple-style autocracy.
     

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:18AM (#31625772) Homepage

    By this time next week they'll be claiming "Market share for Bing jumped by 19%.in the last month".

  • by Miseph (979059) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:20AM (#31625792) Journal

    So if I type "child porn" into the Google image search, should it return 8-year-olds giving blowjobs?

    We censor things here too, we just draw the line differently. That doesn't make it right to draw the line somewhere else, but before you go off on Google, you should really think about what it means for a company to just violate any law they don't care for.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:24AM (#31625848)

    What if the people really do want to kill all ethnic minorities? I mean, there are people who think all the Hispanics need to get out of the United States, right?

  • Re:Torn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by accessbob (962147) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:25AM (#31625882)
    That would depend on whether you are prepared to recognize the sovereignty of totalitiarian dictatorships that torture and murder their own people. Dictators (and their cronies) have no right to say what may happen in their own country, let alone anyone else's. They lose those rights the moment they seize power. All Microsoft is doing is helping the Chinse dictatorship to oppress their own people. For the religious amongst us, think Judas and the money.
  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:28AM (#31625928)

    Bill Gates wants to be seen as some kind of third world savior but in the end, he's just another capitalist with money to burn.

    You are aware that Bill has retired from all but a non-exec position aren't you? He has surprisingly little say in what MS do these days.

  • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:33AM (#31626020)

    Absolutely! Just follow the examples of IBM [wikipedia.org], Standard Oil [wikipedia.org], Ford Motors [wikipedia.org] or perhaps a telco or two [wikipedia.org]. Nothing seems as erection inducing for the CEOs and "free marketers" of all stripes as profits from being able to supply both your side and the enemy's in a war, surely. Because greed and profit is all that counts in this universe, no?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:34AM (#31626030)

    Better to be alive but a slave instead of free and dead?

    Each country has their own laws and many are considered 'odd' or 'repressing'

    I live in Canada. People tell me all the time how I'm so hard done by because of the taxes and the limits of our free economy compared to the US. I don't care. My father lives in the US and loves it - he'll never come back to Canada. I spent some time there, and will never go back other than for a vacation. He just had an $80, 000 operation and I asked him how he felt that it would have been $0 in Canada, other than your taxes. Didn't say a word. Everyone loves not paying taxes until you need a service that you willingly voted against, or decided to stop (like car, house, health insurance).

    I like the way my country is setup. Don't believe everything you see on TV. I watched the NBC coverage of the Olympics in Vancouver and couldn't believe how much BS was being spread about Canada. They are talking about all our customs, etc, Brian Williams was a fucking moron (US Brian Williams, not CTV Brian). He stopped a few NEWFIES on the street and that is where he got most of his information. WTF! Newfies are very different from the rest of the Canadians. And no, we don't live in Igloos! And I don't know Jill or Jack from Canada!!

    We see everything about how China jails protesters and censors information. Well, in Canada, all we see about the States is how there is another gun murder, how the white cops beat black people, and how stupid Bush was. Some may be true. All some people see about Canada is how we keep pepper spraying our protesters.

    Some of the most interesting perspectives in life come from watching another country's news about your own. Next time you travel somewhere, pick up their news and compare it to your local station for the same events. There will be a slant, either with the wording, omissions, or the omission or inclusion of entire stories. Just because most of it comes from AP or Reuters, doesn't mean it won't be slanted.

    Now, I'm not trying to dismiss China - we can all agree it is on an entirely different level, but come on, for the PEOPLE that live there, they don't see it as that bad.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elashish14 (1302231) <profcalc4@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:37AM (#31626108)

    I'm kind of torn by this whole China/Google/Microsoft thing. While I'm not a fan of the Chinese government, who are we to say what they should and shouldn't allow?

    Why shouldn't we? It's called morals. There are things that nobody should allow one group of people to do to others. If one person beats another, are you saying no one should have the right to tell them that it's wrong? The Chinese government completely crosses the line in my book with respect to how they treat their citizens.

    Would we want a Chinese company to come into our country and tell our government what to do?

    Sure. It's always within their power to kick that company out. Which is just why China is doing to Google. So why shouldn't Google speak up?

    While I've seen a great deal of discussion about human rights surrounding these stories, I've seen precious little about sovereignty.

    Just because you're in power doesn't mean you can do whatever you want to the people you control. Or people in other countries for that matter. That would almost invariably lead to absolutism -- as the Chinese currently have. Simple formula: human rights > sovereignty, no matter who you are. Thing is, no one has the balls/power to stand up to them, so they can do whatever they want. All superpowers rise that way.

  • by jimicus (737525) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:46AM (#31626244)

    Selling someone computers is a little less reckless than actually building the gas chamber.

    If they censor results, search engines are doing China’s dirty work for it.

    I'm not sure if I'm following on from a Godwin, but hey.... you've got to remember this was 70 years ago and computing wasn't nearly as mature as it is today.

    IBM knew full well what they were doing and at the time, the argument "if we don't do it someone else will" simply didn't hold water - there wasn't anyone else who had the technology to provide the kind of data processing equipment the Nazis wanted.

  • Re:Conflicted! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pherthyl (445706) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:48AM (#31626302)

    >> Sorry but admiring Google for no longer censoring is like admiring someone for no longer beating their child.

    That's not a good analogy at all. Much better would be to say "Admiring Google for no longer censoring is like admiring the one person that stopped beating their child, while everyone else continues to do so."

    We might not actually admire them, since we don't personally do business in China, so we can feel morally superior, but amongst their peers Google is doing an admirable thing.

  • actually, yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:08AM (#31626614)

    So if I type "child porn" into the Google image search, should it return 8-year-olds giving blowjobs?

    Yes, it should. And people who abuse children to produce those images should be prosecuted, and the sites that host them should be prosecuted.
    Making Google censor that kind of thing doesn't make it go away, it just makes it invisible to most people. Anyone who's really interested can find it.

    And child porn is a bad analogy. The crime here isn't abuse of individuals, it's engaging in speech that criticizes government. Maybe it's a patronizing, western take on things, but if your society needs to suppress dissent to continue to exist, your society is shitty and needs to change.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:10AM (#31626646) Homepage Journal

    the parent makes a valid point. some majority/minority somewhere in the world all wanting the same thing does NOT make what they want acceptable, humane or ethical, and doesnt free us from our moral obligations as humans to act for the greater good.

  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:18AM (#31626792) Journal

    Well, in Canada, all we see about the States is how there is another gun murder, how the white cops beat black people, and how stupid Bush was.

    Don't believe everything you see on TV.

    There, I fixed that for you. You had them in the wrong order.

    I am guessing what you were trying to say was "Take my advice, I'm not using it."

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:24AM (#31626916) Journal

    >>>Google wasn't going anywhere in China

    That really doesn't have anything to do with what I said. There's a difference between selling product, and an outright decision to killoff (war against) your competition like MS did to Lotus, WordPerfect, Netscape, Opera, Java, Kerberos, DR-DOS (blocked by Windows), and on and on, via any means necessary even illegal ones.

    Or do you think MS was forced to appear before the US DOJ and European Union court systems just to have a friendly talk? c'mon. "Embrace, extend, and extinguish" is their motto. It's war. :-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embrace,_extend_and_extinguish [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Microsoft [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Conflicted! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by redJag (662818) on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:55AM (#31627314)
    I disagree. There's nothing wrong with admiring growth of character. I don't know if I agree Google's actions are truly based on character or just business, but that aside.. Maybe you were raised to be a perfect child and have never done wrong, just like I was, but you and I must acknowledge that not everyone was given that same opportunity. Sure, doing it right the first time is PREFERRED, but being able to look at yourself and analyze something that you accepted as TRUTH because that's how you were raised and seeing how it was WRONG and reacting to that realization by GROWING is certainly admirable in my book. It takes a strong person to do that. I hope that I used enough caps to convey my point adequately..
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Friday March 26, 2010 @12:37PM (#31628066)

    "They have the moral right to point fingers because they took action."

    Well, people don't always agree about what is or is not moral. In my book if you've been doing something wrong for a long time and just stopped it, it's time to hang your head in shame and hope for forgiveness, not to act self-righteous about the fact that you've cleaned-up your act.

    Of course, MS is a competitor so it makes the holier-than-thou attitude even more swarmy.

     

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday March 26, 2010 @12:45PM (#31628238)

    Given the fact that microsoft has offshored closing on 50% of it's workforce, with another 9% (5000) scheduled last year, it's also important to keep in mind that microsoft isn't really an american corporation any more. It doesn't have america's best interests at heart and it will sell the U.S. interests out to the highest bidder.

    A good reason to get off of microsoft products-- especially if you are the u.s. government.

  • Re:Conflicted! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:00PM (#31628534)

    Sorry but admiring Google for no longer censoring is like admiring someone for no longer beating their child.
    Yes I am glad it stopped but it should have never started.

    I'm afraid that I have to disagree with you on this. While living in China I discovered that many Chinese are unaware that their results are filtered and the rest say that it's better filtered as the government is doing what it thinks is best for the people as a whole. This is a common sentiment there, even it's the one that's expressed to everyone else and the people have entirely different ideas at home that they don't want anyone else to know.

    In Google's case they actually informed the people that there were censored search results so that the Chinese people might actually have an idea of just how much information they're denied access to, which I believe is a good thing overall. I'm not going blindly defend Google and say that they follow their "do no evil" policy but in this case even if their main objective was making advertising money I can see a bit of good coming out of it while playing by China's rules. Naturally they lost in the end and have decided to stop playing but don't say that not trying was the better alternative.

  • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk&gmail,com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:11PM (#31628710)

    Comparing China and Cuba like that is idiotic. Cuba is indeed socialist, but China is far more capitalist. Arguably moreso than we are.

    Also, are you kidding? You really don't see any differences between feudalism and socialism? I pray I read that wrong...

  • Re:Conflicted! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @04:17PM (#31631724)

    Bingo. They only discovered that they had principles after they got publicly bitch-slapped all over the trailer park.

    Let's be accurate - they didn't get "publicly bitch-slapped" - they chose to make the incident public, when none of the other 20 or so affected companies even said anything about it. Not only did Google make it public, they turned it around and with their words and actions demonstrated that this kind of arrangement was not going to be acceptable; to the the government of the most populous country and one of the biggest economic powers in the world, no less.

    Did this incident break the camel's back? Maybe, but remember that, after all, if Google didn't make a big stink about it, you wouldn't even have a clue it had happened.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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