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Sergey Brin On Google and China 368

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 Arvisp ( 1626837 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:39AM (#31596762)
  • Good on Google (Score:1, Insightful)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:40AM (#31596770) Journal
    It's nice to see a company take an ethical stand and stick to it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:42AM (#31596784)

    The atmosphere of fear is probably plainly apparent even to a six-years-old. The understanding of the reasons for that comes later.

  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:42AM (#31596790)
    I get the feeling this whole showdown is a Larry and Sergey thing. And that Eric Schmidt is against it, and probably the rest of the board is as well. They would rather be pusillanimous like John Chambers and just make as much money off China as possible, even if it means aid and abet totalitarianism and not standing for anything except quarterly share price (again: see John Chambers).

    I applaud refusing to censor information on the internet, this is a line in the sand they have drawn, to perhaps 'do no evil' and in Slashdot spirit we should all be behind it....
  • by Johnny Fusion ( 658094 ) <> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:43AM (#31596802) Homepage Journal
    Why did Google initially agree to censor search results in the first place if this was their philosophy? I am certain they have made money in China, they would not have gone there for altruistic purposes of giving China good search results and web based email if there was not profit in it. Sure they have the philosophy "Don't Be Evil" but they got in bed with China to do business there. Only after the Aurora Exploit did they finally say enough is enough. Taking an anti-censorship stance only AFTER the Aurora attacks makes it seem retaliatory to me. They got a bruised eye from the neighborhood bully and then after playing along fine for quite some time decided they wanted to pick up their ball and go home. I would have been more impressed if Google uncensored their search results from the beginning instead of reacting to overt actions from China to their bottom line.
  • by Exitar ( 809068 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:57AM (#31596942)

    he lived in Soviet Union until he was nearly 6 years old only after some guy from China cracked some Gmail accounts?
    Chinese government surely was fine before that accident because Google censored results without thinking twice about it!

  • Re:Good on Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover ( 150551 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:57AM (#31596946) Homepage Journal

    It's nice to see a company take an ethical stand and stick to it.

    ... and then turn their ethics around 180 degrees after getting hacked and stick with that. For a while, anyway.

    For the moment the compass needle is pointing the right way, so I guess we should approve of that.

  • by Shaper_pmp ( 825142 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:57AM (#31596950)

    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.

    "Political speech" didn't directly influence him aged six, but the country, culture and attitude a lack of it created apparently did. Moreover, nothing in his comment claims he understood it was influencing him at the time... but it's perfectly reasonable that as a grown man with a clearer understanding of both politics and civil liberties, he would think back to his childhood experiences, combine that with what he now knows of the political situation at the time, and come to conclusions regarding the reasons for his childhood experiences.

  • You obviously haven't lived in a totalitarian country. My girlfriend is from a Soviet-Era-communist country. She was very young when the communist regime was repelled but she has distinctive memories of the era, how you could only get state television channel, how going abroad was almost impossible, how it was impossible to get foreign made goods, how the country was everything and criticizing the country was frowned upon. In addition, please remember that Antisemitism in Soviet Union was a de-jure policy after WW2. Also remember, that Sergey Brin's parents were academics, which made them an active target of the government. If you live not under a fear of the government but also under the fear of a government openly hostile to your community and your parents are marked people, it makes a pretty damn good impact on your childhood. In addition, do you think as a child his parents would've never talked about their life in Soviet Union ? These are the experiences that shape your thinking. Just because he was young doesn't mean he doesn't know how it was.
  • Re:Anger? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by je ne sais quoi ( 987177 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:02AM (#31597000)
    You could see the same thing about the protestors that interrupted the torch carrying ceremonies prior to the Beijing olympics. Most chinese didn't view those as a criticism of the their government, but as an attach on chinese people. To say that Americans are used to people criticizing the U.S. government is an understatement, but this is not so in China. I'm tempted to chalk a lot of it up to the immersive indoctrination and political thought control that goes on in China, e.g. every Chinese college student has to take Mao Ze Dong thought, Deng Xiaoping thought, as well as military tactics and strategy. However, there's also a deep seated insecurity in the Chinese people -- for some reason they can easily interpret criticism of their government as a criticism of them. I can't tell if that itself is due to propaganda campaigns waged by the government or what though. Sometimes the U.S. government does this too, e.g. when G.W. Bush & Co painted anyone who criticized the attacks on Iraq as an unpatriotic traitor, including places like France, but also U.S. citizens.
  • Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nomad-9 ( 1423689 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:04AM (#31597024)
    "Yes, business is personal, especially these days." Right. Google was losing market share in China. I bet that if it wasn't, business wouldn't have gotten anywhere near being "personal".

    And what's that special "experience" of a totalitarian regime a child can get from the moment he's born up to 6 years old? Please.

    A corporation's goal is to increase its profits & market shares. Trying to make it pass as some kind of moral authority is at best a marketing trick for image polishing, and at worst utter hypocrisy.

  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:09AM (#31597102)

    I was around the same age when the wall fell, and I distinctly remember the scenes on TV of people scaling it, pulling it apart and so on.

    I didn't really understand why the wall existed, what it was for, or even geographically at that age, where it was in relation to me. Despite that, I still have images in my memory of those scenes when it fell, because for some reason I too knew it was an important moment. This is despite the fact I was in the UK, a country where such an event had no noticable direct effect on me at that age.

    I suspect it was even more prominent for Brin, because that sudden change, from living in the USSR, to living in America where suddenly things he probably wasn't allowed to do, places he'd never seen before, foods and products he never experienced in the USSR, and probably even the types of programs shown on TV that weren't shown in the USSR suddenly became commonplace. I agree with you, a kid is bound to notice such a drastic change in their life even at an age that young, and even if the reality of what that change was about doesn't bite until they get older.

  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:10AM (#31597124) Homepage

    First off, for the love of jesus, do you *really* have to start your sentences in the subject line? Because that's not cool or nifty. It's just plain fucking annoying.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand...

    Did Brin remembered he lived in Soviet Union until he was nearly 6 years old only after some guy from China cracked some Gmail accounts?

    No, more likely Larry and Sergei were overruled during the initial move into China by Schmidt and the board. Then following the hacks, suddenly they found themselves in a position where they could steer the company in a different direction, as they could provide a legitimate business case why the company shouldn't remain there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:17AM (#31597180)

    This is just stupid. Do you think that the moment he moves away he becomes disengaged? No. His parents and family and the media all continue to have a profound impact through out the life of an individual. Do you think that children who flee war zones with their family are fine because they left as kids? Don't think so.

  • by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:19AM (#31597196) Homepage

    Except, of course, those things didn't happen in USSR since 50's.

    By the way, "Americans don't have long lines in the grocery stores!" was a major propaganda point in late 80's when former Communist politicians tried to paint US as the model for the "new direction" of their country. A lot of people actually believed that US has no lines at the checkout -- the only kind of "line in the grocery store" one would find in Russia in 80's. Personally, when I arrived in US, I was *SHOCKED* to see that in this particular aspect US and USSR had exactly the same kind of parity one would expect in nuclear weapons.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:19AM (#31597206)
    I don't like to justify the actions of corporations. I think they all suck. But, if we can refer to Brin here, we all make mistakes from time to time, and make bad decisions. Sometimes, it takes something drastic to slap us in the faces. Making a bad decision is human. Making a stand afterwards and correcting it, is respectable. Compare this to other search engine companies. They are unlikely to ever take a stand as long as there is a dollar to be made. Again, not trying to say google is all good, but just that if a company tries to do better, that is rare these days, and should be kept in mind.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:21AM (#31597232)

    Maybe it was just the final straw? Companies are run by people and can be tolerant of things. However, only up until a point. Until someone finally perked up in a meeting saying 'Why are we dealing with this? It goes against our ideals?'

    Hindsight is 20/20 and what seems like an excellent idea today is tomorrows 'what were we thinking'.

    I would be willing to bet that '6yr old' memories are actually more his parents influence. They did grow up under it. I am sure every time something got better they spoke up about it. Kids DO listen (doesnt mean they act properly with that information) and if you think otherwise your in for a special surprise in life.

    You also have apparently never had to 'pleasure' to work with someone where it is personal. THEY do take it personally. It is their life (they live it and breath it 24/7). They feel 'they' are the company. Piss them off and they will have their company do something to you. Help them out and they will have their company help you in some way. The company is an extension of who they are. Why do people set up corporations? Usually it is to divorce themselves of some sort of liability, or tax advantages. But it is still 'their company'. They will do with the company what they want. That is not always what shareholders want.

  • Re:Anger? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by __aaelyr464 ( 1410019 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:21AM (#31597238)

    What I mean stems from this: "On April 15, the US Treasury will be required by law to issue a report naming countries deemed to be “currency manipulators.”" [].

    If the report names China as a currency manipulator that creates vast trade deficits to benefit their economy (which, for all intents and purposes, they are []), you can bet the Chinese government will lash out and claim we are protecting and siding with our corporations.

  • by cjcela ( 1539859 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:22AM (#31597246)

    For a children it is about living in fear, not about politics. You do not understand this because you have always lived in a protected society, and your parents were never in fear for their lives, so they raised you accordingly. It is hard to relate unless you have lived through something similar.

    I grew up under a military dictatorship when a kid, and I still remember my parents explaining what a curfew was to me when I was 3 or 4 years old, and me not been able to sleep at night because hearing shooting, bombs going out, and people yelling on the street. To this day, I am afraid of the police and to publicly express my political opinions. I even though 10 times before posting this under my name and not as AC.

    Sergei's experience may not have been as bad, but a 5 year old understands fear and censorship, and believe me, once you've been there, you deal with it all your life. Good for him for standing up.

  • by Critical Facilities ( 850111 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:22AM (#31597260)

    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

    What an odd (and really sad) way of looking at life. If you really feel that the US is "imposing" different culture on you, and you feel that your "native culture" was forced upon you, it might be useful to consider what it is that you feel is coming from you yourself. 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?

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:26AM (#31597316) Homepage Journal

    I remember Martin Luther King's assassination, although granted I as *only* seven. I was walking down the street with my mom, and I read a hand lettered sign tacked to a telephone pole calling for revenge against white people. My mom explained that when something bad happens, somebody is bound to get mad and make things worse for everyone.

    It made a big impression on me, and I certainly recalled that moment three decades later when I turned on my radio on the morning of September 11, 2001.

  • by avatar_charlie ( 1633965 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:29AM (#31597354)
    Yeah, but most of those people are probably joking because Sergey and his company have "come to Jesus" on this issue a little late to be claiming the moral high ground.

    While I do applaud Google for finally realizing that promoting freedom (the real kind, not the jingoistic hoo-rah kind) is the only profitable path long-term, I must also remain cognizant of the fact that Google seems to have run down every other blind alley before finding the right one.

    So now Sergey is "following his conscience" after considering childhood experiences, eh? Good. I hope that's true. It would've been better, though, had he done so from the outset.

    As an aside, I've always wondered in Brin's family's case how a gifted mathematician just waltzes out of Soviet Russia in 1979, only to resurface in Maryland out of all the 50 states, and his wife with a US Government job, at that! Somehow, I doubt this is "just how it worked out". (Cue the Yakov Smirnov jokes in 3....2....1....)

    So yeah, Sergey, Larry, and Dr. Strangelove could've considered not cooperating/collaborating with the Chinese a long time ago, and that would've been alright with me. Odd that it took him so many years to remember what living under an oppressive regime felt like. I didn't know money caused amnesia.
  • by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:29AM (#31597356)

    Your post isn't interesting or insightful. It's simply crap.

    Russia is a hellhole. There is no law at all beyond what you can get away with through bribes and connections. There is state-sponsored xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism... and last I remember the living conditions were about equivalent to the US in the 1940s... at the latest.

    That's the way it's been for centuries, and it's unlikely to change now.

  • by Tisha_AH ( 600987 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:32AM (#31597400) Journal

    I too agree with Google's decision to back out of mainland China until the regime decides to grant greater freedoms on information for their people.

    You have to take a stand for something. I think that this is a honorable position for Google to take and it improves my opinion of them as a company and of the executives who are going to catch the flack from investors over their decision.

  • by Dorkmaster Flek ( 1013045 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @10:55AM (#31597730)

    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.

    It will protect you just fine. Everybody in your workplace (well, every reasonable person) will think you're an asshole, but you're in no danger of being "re-educated".

  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:05AM (#31597868) Journal

    Putting it bluntly, tough shit. Obviously the people running YOUR country don't feel the same way, or there wouldn't BE a McDonalds and Starbucks on every corner. Where do you get off forcing YOUR views on all of YOUR other countrymen?

    We do it here in the U.S. There are several small towns that just refuse to issue building permits to Walmart, McDonalds and the like. They want to preserve the "small town feel".

    Hell, screw small towns. It is 2010 and Walmart is STILL trying to get permission to build a store in CHICAGO -- the 3rd largest city in the U.S.! Suburbs, yes. City, not yet.

    I'm willing to bet your gov't isn't subsidizing McDonalds and American movies, etc. So the simple answer is DON'T SHOP THERE. Capitalism, in its basest form, works wonderfully. If you DON'T SHOP THERE then those stores will LOSE MONEY AND CLOSE. These mega corps close "under-performing" stores all the time.

    "Imposed", ha! Help me out. Which country is it that sends in the secret police to put the gun to your head to watch American TV, American movies, buy American brands and eat at American fast-food stores? I'd like to see the tourist brochure.

  • by Third Position ( 1725934 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:21AM (#31598132)

    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.

    It will protect you just fine. Everybody in your workplace (well, every reasonable person) will think you're an asshole, but you're in no danger of being "re-educated".

    Apparently you've never heard of Diversity Training.

  • Re:Good on Google (Score:3, Insightful)

    by InlawBiker ( 1124825 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:41AM (#31598454)
    Until Page and Brin lose control of Google [] by selling off their shares. Afterwords it'll be in control of the board. Does anyone think an executive board would turn down the potential business in China for something as trivial as free speech?
  • by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:44AM (#31598536) Homepage

    With respect, can I ask what culture it is that you're feeling is being imposed on you and/or all Americans?

    Do you really expect a foreigner to describe you what he dislikes in your culture in a way that you would find acceptable?

  • by Machtyn ( 759119 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:22PM (#31599190) Homepage Journal
    No, of course not. But then, I don't shop at RIAA/MPAA supported products. Capitalism at work. Now, if enough people did what I do, those companies would eventually fold or figure out how to fix their mess.

    Again, no one is holding a gun to our head to "enjoy" entertainment. Health insurance maybe, but not entertainment.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:32PM (#31599344) Homepage

    Want to get away from McDonalds? Try walking a little farther afield.

    If you can't avoid McDonalds or Hollywood then it's your own damn laziness.

    No one "imposes" McDonalds on anyone. Their success is simply a matter of
    human nature and how people like cheap crap and are vulnerable to marketing.
    If you want to whine that there is a McDonalds in your part of the planet
    then bitch at your neighbors that have no taste.

    Some people go clear across the planet to have a Big Mac. Others in the same
    exact situation will have the deep fried spiders. If you are lame, you will
    be lame wherever you go. There's no escaping yourself.

    Clearly America doesn't have a monopoly on sheeple consumers.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:34PM (#31599374) Journal

    By doing so, you would be denying others the freedom to choose to enjoy that culture for themselves. It's why we call it a "free society".

    You are, of course, also free to cut yourself off from that culture by ignoring its manifestations. Don't eat in McDonalds. Don't shop in Wal-mart. Don't buy Hollywood movies.

  • Re:6 years old (Score:3, Insightful)

    by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:48PM (#31599588)

    Kids absorb the cultural norms very quickly and will understand who is safe or not.

    Even if you say "dont talk about this or that" you are still talking politics with your kids. They learn that the "Man" is not your friend or to be trusted.

    They are certainly going to get the point if government goons are tossing the house on a regular basis.


  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:51PM (#31599644) Journal

    Under the Soviet bloc, you didn't become an academic unless you supported and abetted the government. It's likely that Brin's parents were part of that totalitarianism, that they enjoyed favoured status by reporting dissidents etc.

    This is pure bullshit, sorry, as evidenced by the fact that many dissidents were academics themselves.

    You didn't need to toe the party line any more active than your average citizen to get into academia.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @01:21PM (#31600144) Journal

    >>>pulling out of the country sends a much stronger message.

    Not really. In a few months the Chinese people will forget Google even existed, and the "message" might as well have never existed. But by staying, and having that message popup every time a link is censored, it would be a constant reminder to the People for the next 10-20 years that they live in a nonfree country.

  • Re:Anger? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reservoir Penguin ( 611789 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @01:59PM (#31600752)
    China is not unique there. Just try to criticize Israel w/o being accused of being of antisemitism.
  • Re:Anger? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sycorob ( 180615 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:16PM (#31600996)

    I've been thinking this for awhile. I'm sure executives at Google didn't love having to do censorship in China (it's gotta create a bunch of busywork for the developers, if nothing else), but they went along with it for awhile. However, if I was running a company in China, and it became painfully obvious that the government was trying to hack my systems to get the identities of protesters and try to steal my IP, and at the same time blatantly helping out my local competition ... that sounds like a loosing game.

    I'm guessing that somebody originally didn't want to go in to China, and only after the attacks could he get enough support to get others to agree to pull out.

  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @03:46PM (#31602436)
    As Dr. McCoy once said, 'You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?'

    Your insistence on a posteriori knowledge is irrational, and wtbname handed you your rhetorical ass already.
  • Re:Anger? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @04:13PM (#31602828)

    Liberal as I am I still criticize Obama on many things, but just because there are plenty of valid criticisms to be made doesn't mean we have to ignore the fact that there are a lot of racists out there trying to veil their racism with phony political outrage. I get enough email forwards from conservatives to know that's a fact.

  • Re:6 years old (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Petrushka ( 815171 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @04:49PM (#31603414)

    It's not just about politics and current events, it's about culture as well. I get that. Look at it this way: when you were 6, had your parents taught you not to accept rides or candy from strangers? Well, imagine that kind of thing, plus being taught one or more of the following:

    • that there are things you must (never) say when someone in a uniform asks you a question
    • that the man accompanying the class on the field trip works for the government
    • not to mention that your aunt married a Jewish man
    • not to mention that you are Jewish
    • not to mention that you are Muslim
    • not to mention that your family goes to church
    • not to mention that your family doesn't go to church
    • not to go into the field with the big sign with a skull and crossbones
    • what a curfew is
    • etc.

    Any child who has to be taught any of the above things is living in an oppressed society (not necessarily by their own government, in the minefield case), and will remember and recognise what these things mean as they get older.

"I think trash is the most important manifestation of culture we have in my lifetime." - Johnny Legend