Internet search engine giant Google, Inc. may have stepped into a slightly stickier international business situation in the sealing of a deal to provide search engine capabilities to China than they had bargained for. When news broke in early January that they were working on a deal to provide a form of their search engine to China, tongues were wagging about how this long time champion of free speech would handle the introduction of their Internet search capabilities to a country notorious for censorship and human rights violations.
Now, five months later, Google seems to be standing with its shoulders sagging a bit and its posture a little less erect as key players in the Google, Inc / China search engine deal acknowledge some trepidation about the censorship software they have been obliged to introduce with the Chinese version of the search engine.
On June 7, Google, Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin publicly expressed his consternation about the Chinese search engine introduced by Google that would include filters designed to screen out topics the Chinese government consider unacceptable. Brin went so far as to acknowledge that his company “compromised its principles” by introducing a Chinese search engine that filters controversial links about democracy, among other topics, and he suggested that there was still a possibility that Google could pull the plug on the Chinese site if working with the Chinese government was considered by Google executives to be too burdensome.
The Chinese government responded to Brin’s statements by restating that companies like Google, Inc., which are broaching Chinese territory in their quest for greater world coverage of their Internet services, will be obliged to follow Chinese law, including the online censorship of materials that the Chinese government considers unacceptable for general viewing, and particularly materials that diverge from the views of the Chinese government. In a statement covered in press reports, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao reiterated the Beijing government’s position, stating that international companies providing services in China would be bound to follow Chinese law, and that there would be no flexibility in China’s censorship rules.
While Brin has acknowledged that the “principled approach” was perhaps the approach that made the most sense to take, considering the ethical and philosophical differences between the Mountain View, CA search engine colossus and the government of Beijing, he stated that for the moment, it was not the plan. Calling the possibility of pulling out of China an “alternate path,” Brin continued by stating that the “alternate path” was “not the one we’ve chosen to take right now.”
Time will tell how Google, Inc. will handle the reconciliation of the introduction of their services to a country that extols censorship and considers human rights violations to be a matter of no concern to the international community. In consideration of the censorship filters that will be an obligatory component of those services, the prognosis is bumpy at best. For the moment, despite expressed philosophical hesitation, Google in China is all systems go. This should be excellent news for Chinese students looking for more information about the supreme benevolence of the Chinese Government.
Source: Associated Press