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Ben Franklin's bifocals January 26, 2006

Google Should Gargle

Year of the dog - Chinese symbol

No sooner do I finish my words of praise about Google (see Journal entry of January 23) then I am undone. Today it became public that the aforesaid Google management had rolled over and peed on its collective belly in order to please the Chinese Communist government. In doing so Google joins other Internet service providers doing business in China to censor and block those web sites that are found offensive by the Communist leadership of the country.

This action on the part of Google management is reported to be a voluntary censorship that was not mandated by any government. Until this recent decision was taken, a Google search performed in China would presumably have returned the same number of hits as one performed in any other country or geographic location. The Chinese government had instituted extensive monitoring and censorship apparatus to block all those sites that might provide information to the populace that the government wanted withheld. Like most totalitarian regimes, the Chinese leadership attempts to control its public by dictating all forms of information flow and communication so that only the approved views and other government propaganda are made available. On any controversial subject, therefore, a Google search result seen by a Chinese citizen might consist of mostly dead links to unapproved websites that had been blocked by government censors.

In its efforts to please its Chinese customers, Google decided to spare them the trouble of wading through these dead links (and also reduce the burden on the government censors) by returning only those hits that were acceptable to the Chinese leadership. This action, which in one stroke both conceals and institutionalizes an extensive scheme of information control and censorship, is diametrically opposed to the principles of open, democratic searches that Google says it adheres to. Shame on you, Google, for abandoning your core values. Whatever competitive advantage you think you have gained, you have paid a high price for it indeed. You have sold your soul.

William's Whimsical Words:

Freedom of access to information is the hallmark of an open society.

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