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Bill Gates Defends Google's Censorship In China 511

Posted by Zonk
from the do-business-nicely-please dept.
worb writes "At the World Economic Forum today, Bill Gates defended Google's actions in China and told delegates that the internet 'is contributing to Chinese political engagement' as 'access to the outside world is preventing more censorship'. There was no reason for technology companies not to do business in China, he argued."
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Bill Gates Defends Google's Censorship In China

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  • Exactly (Score:2, Funny)

    by mfh (56)
    Bill Gates wouldn't deny software licenses to The Mob, for example. Commerce should be free and open.
    • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You sound like you're trolling, but Free Software stands by this principle too.

      The GNU GPL offers _ALL_ people freedom to run GPL licensed software. It doesn't exclude military contractors, Chinese citizens, Burmese citizens, neo-Nazi organisations, etc., that many "Freeware" licenses forbid use of their software to.

      Technology is not an effective political weapon except en-masse. The idea of blockading all trade with China to punish its government for not following enlightened Western ideals is pretty much
      • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Informative)

        by SIGALRM (784769) on Friday January 27, 2006 @09:13PM (#14585235) Journal
        Free Software stands by this principle too
        You may remember, in 1999 Eric Raymond started an interesting debate on the parallels between communism (referring to China) and F/OSS... you can read it here [jijiao.com.cn], oddly enough referred by google.cn [google.cn].
        • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

          by eeyore (78059)

          If you don't live in the People's Republic of China and your ISP isn't in the effective jurisdiction of the PRC, you probably will see uncensored search results, especially if *google.cn is not actually hosted in the PRC.

          Just how zealous is Google about this? Do they censor search results requested by residents of Taiwan?

          --
          E
    • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:01PM (#14584703) Journal
      Which reminds me. If Democracy is supposed to be such a good thing - and any government defying its principles is deficient, if not questionably moral - then why does the same not hold true for corporations? Why are they run by charismatic autocrats, backed by semi-secretive cabals?

      CEOs are just little Maoist dictators at heart. They share more with the reality of the Chinese rulers than they do with you, me or Thomas Paine.
      • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Funny)

        by X0563511 (793323) *
        I take offense to that. One of my relatives, specifically second-cousin, is a CEO, and she is one of the better people out there.
      • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Informative)

        by Millenniumman (924859) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:42PM (#14585006)
        Because people are free to be associated with corporations or to not be associated. In the U.S., I can start an organization in which I am dictator, king, deity, etc. But no one has to be in it, and generally the greatest consequence of disobeying me will be removal from my organization. Corporations don't have to be democratic because being an employee or customer of one is optional.
        • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

          by John Nowak (872479) on Friday January 27, 2006 @10:07PM (#14585565)
          That's not really true. If I want electricity, I have no choice. If I want hot water, I have no choice in either case as to which corporation I must give money to. I need to pick a corporation for health insurance. I need to pick one for car insurance. If they all suck (and they do), I have to deal with it.

          Also, oftne you cannot escape the effects of a corporation. I cannot escape tons of mindless advertisements. I cannot escape the influence of companies like Haliburton. I cannot avoid getting screwed by an Enron-like company. I cannot help but breath the polution put out by companies with a greater interest in profit than protecting the environment. I cannot help but have my voice heard less because I can't throw thousands of dollars to dozens of politicans every year. Etc etc...
          • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Interesting)

            by benna (614220)
            Obviously you make a good argument about electric companies and other monopolies, but your other points are flawed. It is true that you don't have a choice as to whether some corporation you do not do business with affects you, but then you don't have a choice whether some dictatorship invades your democratic company either.
          • off the grid (Score:5, Interesting)

            by poptones (653660) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:59AM (#14586452) Journal
            Don't want to pay your electric company? Invest in solar panels, a diesel or lp gas generator, thermocouples or whatever it takes.

            I escape pretty much literally thousands of tv ads every day - I don't watch stations that air commercials.

            You, by not erecting off grid energy sources for yourself and watching tv every day are contributing to that pollution that so bothers you. So turn off the bloody tv and save that energy. Use that time you used to waste being a couch potato lobbying your representatives.

            You are addicted to a culture you despise and blaming the culture for reflecting the values you support. That's not culture's problem, and culture cannot fix itself.
            • Re:off the grid (Score:3, Interesting)

              Don't want to pay your electric company? Invest in solar panels, a diesel or lp gas generator, thermocouples or whatever it takes.

              A point that is heard on this and other message boards quite frequently is that today, the only true power, the only true vote, comes in the form of a dollar bill. You do reenforce the notion that dollars are all that counts, which is essentially WHY we are at the mercy of a unilateral power, the so called corporate "dictatorships".

              Solar panels and gas generators are notoriously
            • Re:off the grid (Score:3, Insightful)

              by John Nowak (872479)
              Oh shut the fuck up, I don't even own a TV. It was just an example. Your assumptions prove only your self-righteousness and idiocy. You have no idea what I do and don't do.
          • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

            by m50d (797211)
            That's not really true. If I want electricity, I have no choice. If I want hot water, I have no choice in either case as to which corporation I must give money to.

            Which is why natural monopolies like that should be state-owned.

      • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rainman_bc (735332)

        Which reminds me. If Democracy is supposed to be such a good thing - and any government defying its principles is deficient, if not questionably moral - then why does the same not hold true for corporations? Why are they run by charismatic autocrats, backed by semi-secretive cabals?


        All publicly traded corporations are a democracy. They are reponsible to their shareholders, the same way a government is responsible to their voters. The only difference is that it isn't a simple matter of one shareholder, o
      • Guh? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Stu Charlton (1311) *
        If Democracy is supposed to be such a good thing

        Democracy isn't necessarily a good thing at all times, as it can actually inhibit freedom if it is not counter-balanced. "Tyranny of the majority", for example.

        and any government defying its principles is deficient, if not questionably moral

        This is way too stringent. Firstly, what princpals are you refering to? There are many, not completely compatible, views on what a democracy really is.

        Secondly, democracy doesn't necessarily product good or moral decis
    • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:06PM (#14584748) Journal
      At the very end of TFA, they leave us with these words from Mr. Gates
      Software piracy is a problem that will likely be solved over time, because as Chinese-made technology evolves, the country's respect for intellectual property rights will improve, he added.

      "We are always upset that they aren't paying us for our products, but we're not going to pick up and go home," Mr Gates said.
      So... Gates can't really deny the Chinese software licenses... they aren't asking.

      Gates knows that any business that wants to be part of the future, needs to be involved in China and India. That's 1/3rd of the worlds population. Bill Gates and the boys at Google aren't stupid.
      • Gates knows that any business that wants to be part of the future, needs to be involved in China and India. That's 1/3rd of the worlds population. Bill Gates and the boys at Google aren't stupid.
        And no one has said that they're stupid.

        Just that they are supporting China's oppression of political dissidents.

        And your post seems to imply that they are doing it because it is more profitable than refusing.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      A large reason people allowed Google to get as big and powerful as the were (as opposed to MSFT Passport, etc) is that people trusted Google.

      By undermining our trust, this re-opened the game for Microsoft.

      Bill, if you want to win the Internet (at least in the western world) - just uncensor China - and you will have stolen the moral high ground from Google. I'd switch. Your search results are good enough; and if it weren't that I mistrust Microsoft so much today I probably wouldn't be using Google.

  • by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary,address,for,privacy&gmail,com> on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:37PM (#14584476)
    Googles actions were the same as his own, weren't they? So he defended himself aswell.
    • by aprilsound (412645) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:16PM (#14584820) Homepage
      Everyone seems to be a bit confused about this. Google (and I assume MSN and Yahoo!) are only censoring google.cn results. Google.com is unfiltered, assuming you can get to it from China, but Google has no part in filtering that out. The google.cn servers are IN CHINA. So Google has two choices, filter, or have their servers promptly shutdown. This is about improving service to China, and to do that, they have to censor google.cn. There is no choice here, if there is going to be a local, accessible google, then it must be filtered. If Chinese users can get to google.com, then they can see the unfiltered results. Google even tells them on google.cn that some results are filtered. They can't do more than that.
      • by pomo monster (873962) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:58PM (#14585134)

        MSN and Yahoo! behave much worse, from a do-no-evil POV. Consider this writeup in the Economist:

        Google has not entirely capitulated in China. It has pared back the services it offers--no e-mail accounts, for example--so that it doesn't put itself in the position where it might have to violate users' privacy. It has also arranged to tell users when search results have been withheld--though the Chinese authorities could always reconsider the arrangement. At the same time, in America, Google has taken a healthy stand against the DoJ, refusing to give the government what it seeks.

        Google's rivals have been more accommodating. Yahoo! last year revealed the identity of a Chinese e-mail account-holder, who is now in prison for exposing information the government wanted kept secret. Microsoft's MSN service prohibits words such as "democracy" from being used as headlines on Chinese blogs. In America, AOL, MSN and Yahoo! all handed their data over to the justice department.

        Yet western firms faced with engagement or isolation are right to think that being in China leads to greater openness than if they stayed away. Indeed, the very controversies that have cropped up about censorship and suppression are symptomatic of the ways in which free speech is greater now than in the past, thanks to the internet. And, so long as the DoJ's data is anonymous, privacy is not strictly in question.

        Now don't get me wrong. I dislike Google; I think their products and services are in poor taste. But certainly, the company deserves better than the slamming it's getting here on Slashdot, and I don't doubt they're at least partially motivated by the hope that they're working to improve things in China. If it was purely about profit, after all, they'd have opened Gmail to Chinese citizens (or have they already, contrary to the article [economist.com]?).

      • by mrklin (608689) <{ken.lin} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday January 27, 2006 @10:06PM (#14585549)
        That is a tired argument: because Google China is located in China, it will have to follow Chinese laws. No one is disputing that.

        When MSN China and Yahoo China followed Chinese laws and performed acts deemed unsavory by the American blogosphere (turning over information, censoring results, whatever), both companies were widely attacked. No one ever came to the corporation's defense by saying: oh, there is nothing the companies can do, Chinese journalists and others should have know better by using MSN/Yahoo US!

        So when you say that "everyone seems to be a bit confused about this," you are correct, people should be confused about how to defend Google "Do no evil" for doing the exact same thing they are chastising Microsoft and Yahoo for. This double standard is indeed confusing.

        Google's halo is undeserved in my opinion.

    • Google is right to change the results of South African searchers looking for images and information about the Sharpeville massacre [google.cn] because in the end it's better for Google to be in the South African apartheid market than out of it, and they'd be out if they let them see images like this [google.com.au]. Giving them access to some information is better than none and little bits will slip through because you can't censor everything.

      What about the ANC [google.com.au] you say? Well the South African government considers them terrorists s
  • And... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Somatic (888514) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:38PM (#14584488) Journal
    ...then Ballmer threw a chair at China.
    • > ...then Ballmer threw a chair at China.

      ...then the Chairman of the Party pointed out that after he ordered his citizens to throw their chairs into the Yangtze River, they fucking flooded [wikipedia.org] 1.9 million peasants, and that fucking burying Google would be a cinch in comparison.

      Speaking of Ballmer, I wonder if you can find the monkeyboy video on MSN search?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:38PM (#14584491)
    After learning Bill Gates was defending their actions, they've decided working in China with censorship is evil after all, and they won't be doing it. They'll be on Oprah Monday to discuss it.
    • by humphrm (18130) on Friday January 27, 2006 @10:07PM (#14585569) Homepage
      Think about it. Your comment may have been intended as humorous, but the opposite side is more likely true. Bill Gates, whether he recognizes that he's evil or not, surely knows that when Google says "Do No Evil," they are contrasting themselves from him.

      In one fell swoop, Bill Gates has now placed Google into the same group he is in. From his perspective, if he's evil, so be it... now he's in good company. Bill Gates may have just precipitated the destruction of it's arch nemesis, Google.
  • I was... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:38PM (#14584495)
    I was ambivalent about whether Google's actions constituted "doing evil," but, after Gate's support, I'm sure it's evil, now.
    • Re:I was... (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I had mixed feelings about my ambivalence, and then, eventually, I reached uncertainty. I think.
  • *whew* (Score:5, Funny)

    by RoadDoggFL (876257) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:39PM (#14584503) Homepage
    For a second there I though Google might be a bad guy, but if Bill says they're still cool then they must still be cool.
    • Re:*whew* (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)
      Its much more difficult to fight a battle when your not in the ring.
      I see no problem at present with the major corporations' collective stance.

      99.9% of chinese folks don't even consider themselves repressed, so why make it difficult for them to use the web?

      • And that's exactly how I feel. Google's providing their services under the guidelines they've been given. I'm just saying that Bill Gates isn't really accomplishing much. Reminds me of the South Park when Jimbo(?) got the Klan supported the party they disagreed with because everybody hated them (bye-bye, Karma).
  • Right is not Right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elixon (832904) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:42PM (#14584526) Homepage Journal
    Do not forget that both Google and Gates speak from the position of a BUSINESSMAN! Not as a human rights activists, citizen or politician!

    So "There was no reason for technology companies not to do business in China." does not mean that It was right" but it does mean "There was no better option to earn money"...

    The Right Thing can be different when viewed from different angles.
    • Of course, in his role as a human rights activist, Gates *only* gave Six Hundred Million dollars to help eradicate TB, that's all.
    • Do not forget that both Google and Gates speak from the position of a BUSINESSMAN! Not as a human rights activists, citizen or politician!

      Gates actually claims to be a humanitarian, and has received accolades for such. Even a knighthood from the Queen, if I remember correctly. So it is very hypocritical to try and boost his image through charity - while in another role, undermining his charity work, by supporting much worse things.

    • Even if this mentality is the standard practice, I think it's quite flawed and short sighted. Just because you're a businessman shouldn't mean that you are excempt from morality. To say that this is the "right decision" implies more than just "it's the best way to make money" whether that's the intention or not. However, I don't think that Google doing business in China is neccessarily immoral anyways, so in this case it might be both the best business decision and the best political decision.
      • by jlarocco (851450) on Friday January 27, 2006 @09:16PM (#14585254) Homepage
        Just because you're a businessman shouldn't mean that you are excempt from morality.

        This has nothing to do with being a business man. The fact of the matter is, nobody in the U.S. cares about human rights in China. That new Dell monitor? Made in China. The mouse and keyboard? Made in China. Half the components in your computer? Made in China. Those shoes? Made in China. That cheap pair of jeans? China.

        Instead of whining on slashdot about how "OMG, Google's doing business in China!!1!! They must be evil!!", how about you get off your ass, make a stand, and discontinue doing business with China yourself?

        Look at it this way, Google, Microsoft, and all the other companies doing business in China sell out their morality for hundreds of millions of dollars. The average U.S. citizen does it for 75 cents off a mouse and cheaper shoes. Maybe you're criticizing the wrong group?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The Right Thing can be different when viewed from different angles.

      No it cannot.

      If you try to refute me I will just say that from CERTAIN angles your post is wrong, and mine is right.

      You've got yourself in a bit of a paradox now, haven't you?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_relativism#Cr itics_of_relativism [wikipedia.org]
    • by GoofyBoy (44399)
      From a purely business point of view, what Google is doing is not right.

      They are censoring their results so that they can gain access to a large market, and potentially profit from this.

      From Google's SEC Form S-1 Registration Form; ( http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1288776/000 119312504073639/ds1.htm [sec.gov] )

      "Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, " ...
      "We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to t
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:42PM (#14584529)
    ... why didn't you do the same for MSN?
  • Still wondering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Too many errors, bai (815931) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:45PM (#14584554)
    The critics may decry this move, but would China be better off with no Google at all in your opinion?
    • Re:Still wondering (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dangitman (862676) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:02PM (#14584713)
      Yes. Bad information is worse than no information. What's the point of using Google if it only mimics the government view? They would not be finding out anything new that they couldn't get from their local government propaganda agent.

      When they sort out their freedom of speech issue - then let's talk about information sharing.

      • Re:Still wondering (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061)
        Google isn't only to find political information.

        You can use google in a number of ways, they provide a number of different services.
        Censorship is wrong, but if Google didn't negotiate with China, they would just ban google's whole subnet into oblivion. So, let's say that 20% of people would use google to find some information that may be considered to have something to do with politics. Of that 20%, let's say that some 70% would be ok for China, and another 30% is what they wanted banned. So, google is stil
        • Re:Still wondering (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Cl1mh4224rd (265427)
          So, google is still functional in about 90% of all searches, that seems better than 0% to me.
          You seem to be implying that China had absolutely no means of searching the Internet prior to Google.

          Look, I really like Google, but let's not delude ourselves. This move was only so Google could get, or keep, a piece of that China pie. It wasn't to bring more information to China.
      • I concur.

        What google should have done, is set up its chinese-language service in the United States, and leave it up to the people in China to find ways to circumvent censorship (and you better believe they would).

        -jcr
           
      • Re:Still wondering (Score:5, Insightful)

        by raoul666 (870362) <pi.rocks@ g m a i l .com> on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:22AM (#14586279)
        Bad information is worse than no information.

        In some cases, maybe. In this case, no. What China doesn't want is political dissent. They aren't filtering sites about how to farm more effectively, or sites that make people laugh, or sites that allow people to find businesses, or sites that tell people the best treatment for a certain disese. Google is a great tool, and for most things, censorship will not change that. Were I given the choice between no internet access and censored internet access, I would choose censored, since the majority of things I do online are really of no interest to any government.

        And why do you think they'll relax on free speech if they have no access to information? If we try to exclude China from the world, they might just close up even further. Open up to them and they'll eventually give in.
        • Re:Still wondering (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dangitman (862676)
          Google is a great tool, and for most things, censorship will not change that. Were I given the choice between no internet access and censored internet access, I would choose censored,

          This is not the choice. they already have censored access from Yahoo and Microsoft. the difference is that Google censors more content than either Yahoo or Microsoft, and goes beyond what the Chinese government requested. So, how does it help adding Google, when it is less open than the existing alternatives?

          And why do you t

    • Re:Still wondering (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrWa (144753) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:27PM (#14584906) Homepage
      Chinese citizens are probably better off with a censored Google rather than no Google at all. That is true.

      The "critics", such as they are, are mainly those people that love to point out hypocrisy in others. Google brought this on themselves, though, by obviously juxtopositioning themselves against Microsoft with the corporate philosophy of "Do no evil." Remember your SAT keywords; Google themselves said "no evil" - not "Do the lesser of two evils."

      Censorship in the support of a repressive government is considered by most people to fall under the umbrella of things evil. Justifying that action based on the corporate benefits or saying that, hey, atleast they know the results are being censored - as though millions of Chinese people are really that ignorant - does not change the fact that Google is helping to restrict the information available. That is why the critics are so vocal: it is about Google violating thier own philosophy and breaking netizen trust more than the specific benefit/harm tradeoff that filtering the results entails.

      • Is Google supposed to do the opposite of Microsoft, even when Microsoft is right?

        In this case, Google's choices were:

        1: Self-censor as per the PRC's wishes

        2: Let the PRC do the censoring much more crudely

        3: Be banned from the Chinese market

        Which is the best solution? It is obvious.

        I disagree about the "lesser evil two evils". There is no evil here at all. Rather, it is a question of how much GOOD Google will do. Their choices are some, less, and none, as noted above. Yes, "lots" wou
      • Re:Still wondering (Score:5, Insightful)

        by saikatguha266 (688325) on Friday January 27, 2006 @09:46PM (#14585434) Homepage
        > Chinese citizens are probably better off with a censored Google rather than no Google at all.

        Sensoring is one thing. Sugar-coating and biasing is another.

        If Google were to censor all occurences of 'Tiananmen' and say that the search returned '0' results because of censoring, I'd be likely to agree with you. After all, '0' results doesn't say whether Tiananmen happened or didn't happen.

        But Google is hiding the content that speaks negatively of it, and not what speaks positively of it. Compare:
        World -- http://images.google.com/images?q=tiananmen [google.com]
        China -- http://images.google.cn/images?q=tiananmen [google.cn]

        When all the serce results say Tianenmen didn't happen, and none say it did ... thats when Google spreads biased misinformation. This is what is evil.
  • Welcome to /. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Neoprofin (871029) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .niforpoen.> on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:45PM (#14584555)
    The comments so far seem to reflect exactly what I saw coming the second I read the headline.

    If MS censors in China, MS is evil and money grubbing and should be stopped.
    If Google censors in China they're actually improving freedom in China just by being there.
    If MS defends Google censoring China, MS is evil, Google is Good.

    Wecome to /.
    • Re:Welcome to /. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dbolger (161340)
      Actually, on this issue I've seen more slashdot user criticism of Google than I have on pretty much anything else they have done; "evil" or otherwise.

      In fact, the majority of the posts to this thread, at least those I've read, seem to be arguing against Google on this, many jokingly pointing out that a thumbs up from Bill Gates, the "Big Bad" on Slashdot, is hardly an winning endorsement of their actions in China.
    • Re:Welcome to /. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Some users take one position
      Others take another position
      Some think slashdot is a single entity with double standards.

      Welcome to /.
  • by gasmonso (929871) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:46PM (#14584565) Homepage

    Google hasn't done anything countless other companies have done. But because thits Google the press goes crazy with it. This is laughable to say the least. The more China gets exposed to influences from other countries, the better off they are. Google alone can't dictate policy in China. But once they are established, change can occur.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • Same thing with Microsoft and Bill Gates (They are a monopoly! They make too much money! They unfairly crush their competition! He is only trying to make amends using our own money!)

      Why don't you speak out about all the Microsoft/Bill Gates bashing that goes around here?
  • by slothman32 (629113) <pjackso5NO@SPAMrochester.rr.com> on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:47PM (#14584572) Homepage Journal
    I'll get modded down for this but I don't really care what they do in China.
    Well I do but I won't feel any more worse about it than I do about China in general.
    It seems like it should be similar but I think of it as completely different than the US, or other wesertn countries.
    Basically China can do whatever it wants.
    Of course those are those who think that you should boycott anything that does business there. That would mean you have to leave the US and stop buying most products.
    This applies to both Google and MS.
    Now yes I do think censorship as bad but it isn't the same in other places.
    I can't really explain it though.

    P.S. I noticed that when someone mentions they will be modded down in a post it actually gets modded up.
    I don't mind the karma loss I just like lots of replies.
  • rare case (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wes33 (698200) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:54PM (#14584641)
    the pot calling the kettle white
  • by nysus (162232) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:55PM (#14584649)
    Censorship leads to freedom.
    Totalitarianism births democracy.
    Benevolent societies are a natural byproduct following shareholder interests.
  • by nysus (162232) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:03PM (#14584719)
    ...you so you decide to go over there and see if he needs a hand with his new deck. Oh, and you also give him a nice new baseball bat that he says he needs for, uh, batting practice. After all, you have a far better chance of reforming him by rewarding him, right?
    • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:32PM (#14584939) Homepage Journal
      .... at least try to use ones that hold some water.

      IN the analogy you are using, you can refer the matter to an arbiting authority: the police.

      In the case of Google, there is no referee, the referee is the client. And the judge, and everything.

      If you wanna play in China (and if all your competition is alreading doing so, you must do so) then you are going to play under Chinese rules and brush up your Mandarin.
      • Ah, so when there is no higher authority, it's OK to throw ethics out the window?

        And there is, in fact, a higher authority. It's called world opinion. But Google's unabashed acceptance of human rights crimes as a cost of doing business just made China's crimes more acceptable to the rest of the world.
  • by grcumb (781340) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:04PM (#14584724) Homepage Journal

    I work in a country where pornography is illegal, so whenever I set up a network I have to install a content filter as due diligence. Personally, I consider abuse of office resources to be a human resource issue, and I make it very clear to management that no filtering technology I can install will obviate the need for a clear Acceptable Use Policy and careful monitoring by staff and management.

    I'm not entirely comfortable about blocking content on the Internet, as it's failure prone and IMO removes the responsibility from where I believe it should lie - squarely on the shoulders of the individual members of the organisation. I also find that the local attitude toward the human body extremely unhealthy and socially repressive. But because failure on my part to actively uphold the law of the land could result in my deportation and, more importantly, could harm the development organisation for whom I work, I hold my nose and install the filter anyway.

    I still believe that the work I'm doing - bringing the Internet to places where it has never existed before - has more advantages than drawbacks. That's why I'm willing to compromise my principles and to go ahead with this.

    That said, I am not working for the local government. Quite the contrary; I work for civil society organisations who spend a great deal of their time and energy keeping the government responsive to the needs of the people. I feel quite ambivalent about companies like Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google, who are in effect doing the government's work for it.

    Gates' logic seems to run as follows:

    • We're improving access to information to the Chinese public;
    • In the process of doing that, we have to accept some reasonable compromises;
    • None the less, a net benefit results, so our proactive blocking of dissident content is mitigated by the more subtle influence of freer communication and more information.

    I've tried to weigh the kind of compromises I'm willing to make in the course of trying to benefit society in the country where I work against the purported benefit that accrues to the people of China as a result of the presence of these tech corporations, and for reasons that I can't express very well, I still feel that avarice is leading Gates and co. to make rationalisations.

    Anyway, this post is not really trying to prescribe so much as to suggest that the moral and ethical ground is not nearly as clear on either side as we might like. I emphatically disagree with the argument that corporations are amoral and should act only for profit, but at the same time, I have little patience for those who allow Platonic ideals to control their real world behaviour.

  • by brsmith4 (567390) <brsmith4@gmCOLAail.com minus caffeine> on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:05PM (#14584735)
    Just because Google is an American company, it is not within reason for it to impose American ideology on another nation. While doing business within a market sponsored and regulated by another government, it is only fair that you play by their rules. Google is NOT a liberation army, they are not defenders of democracy or freedom; nor is it their right to assume such a role in a foreign land. Google is a business, a business with shareholders who demand results, results which include expanding into other markets via legal means. Google is in China to offer a product or service and, in a hybrid free-market/command-economy, you must yield to he who allows you to peddle your goods on his front yard. In the end, it all means that regardless of how we the people, the employees of Google, or some loud-mouthed Senators feel, if you want to play in China, you must obey Chinese law.

    The point can also be made that Google did not have to enter the Chinese market, given those stipulations, but unfortunately, that is not the case. We need as much Chinese business as we can get to help with the ever-growing trade imbalances as we import much more than we export. I fail to see any semblance of a moral dilemma here.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:08PM (#14584768)
    ... these things are dangerous. Bill say's that Google does good things, ergo it must be evil, but Google is not evil.

    Why is that dangerous ... it may turn slashdot into a time-warp-black-hole-troll-flamewar-thingy sucking the entire universe in and ending all things.

    The end is near!!!
  • Bill's Google Search: "my position on Google in China"

    Google's Reply: "It commends Google for doing business in China. Put the lotion in the basket!"

  • A lot of people misinterpret Google.cn as being the chinese version of Google.com, even though they still offer the unfiltered version at Google.com. It seems to me as if google are just playing by china's rule in order to get the extra traffic, and more importantly the extra money.
  • by Stan Vassilev (939229) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:28PM (#14584913)
    Most of the comments here and the other articles on the subject follow the "everything or nothing" mentality.

    This is typical when asking for opinions of people not directly affected by the matter. Most of you being outside China, it is easy to claim that you would rather not use Google at all instead of use a reliable service with certain "sensitive" pages filtered.

    If you put yourself in the position of a Chinese Internet user, the situation quickly gets different.

    Google is a powerful tool, the benefits of which reach far beyond looking up the human rights sites on the Internet (as important as that may be on its own). Depriving China of Google's services is far worse development for Chinese citizens than what Google chose to do.

    Also don't forget that it's a lot easier to control a population with overall less reach to information sources. Even if Google filters certain pages, the rest of the information is still an important tool in the fight against censorship and human freedoms.

    As China's population gets increasingly better informed and educated, it will be increasingly difficult to control them in the manners we see now or in the past.

    So I applaud Bill Gates for taking stand on the matter, never mind if it is to defend Microsoft's own policy or out of principle.
  • by digital photo (635872) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:29PM (#14584924) Homepage Journal

    I think alot of people are missing the point.

    Google is restricting some sites. Yes. But by having servers for the Google Search, the users in China will be able to access content much more quickly. Ie, instead of a slow and unreliable search page, they will now have a high speed and reliable search page.

    The only issue is that terms will be censored, as the government determines words that need censoring.

    By making information search faster and easier in China, this opens up the minds of people using the net and the people they talk to. It makes the idea of freedom of information more prevelant and better accepted.

    By not choosing to enter China, the alternative was that people would stop using Google because it was unusable in China due to dropped connections, poor speeds, etc. People would need to then use state-controlled search engines which could be shutdown outright.

    People are saying it's a blow to human rights. I see it as a step forward for human rights. A tiny step, but a step forward nonetheless. Companies and people carrying the idea of freedom of information needs to start making more in-roads into China, and by extension, the Chinese Government's mindset.

    The best way to combat opressive governmental systems is to spread the idea of a better system.

    What people don't understand is that Google's going into China was probably something which Google negotiated upon from a disadvantaged position. China doesn't care for Google being in China. To be able to be in China and serve search results is a big boon, even with the restrictions. A boon to Google, for sure, but a boon to the people who live in China and want to use Google to search for information and new ideas.

    Microsoft isn't really defending Google in the article. They are defending the idea of doing business in China. They are defending the concept that there is significant business opportunity to be had for companies doing business in China. If investors decide to back away from China as a market, that impacts Microsoft, who wants to increase their business in China.

    It isn't so much that they are helping Google so much as keeping their ability to invest in China open.

    Groups and organizations with ideas which would be considered radical in comparison to opressive governments are often times taking an all or nothing philosophy to oppression. Ie, all access or none at all. Which do you think is better for the people being oppressed?

    By forcing an all-or-nothing decision/approach, you back the governments into a corner or you tie the hands of businesses. Often times, to the point where there isn't so much a discussion as there is a shouting match.

    Change comes gradually. Sometimes decades, if not centuries. Yes, oppression is wrong. No, it won't change over night. Yes, the filtering of Google isn't optimal. But Google's presence in China helps to increase the visibility of an outside company and still offers a better mechanism to access the web's information. It isn't a great big step, but it's a step forward.

    People are so stuck in the mindset of: do what we want or we will sanction you. Except that can't be leveraged against China because they are the biggest buyers of US bonds. They are a major investor in the US government. So sanctions against them is highly unlikely.

    Gotta find that middle ground that everyone can agree on at the moment and find a better one down the line.

    Google isn't evil. Not from my point of view. They are trying to do the best they can given the restrictions presented to them. Microsoft is hardly cheering them. The last thing Microsoft wants is Google to have a strong footing in China. Microsoft is only defending the idea of doing business in China, not Google's doing business in China.

  • Bear in mind that Gates was speaking at the Davos summit, a cosy club of self-appointed (and probably self-regarding) movers and shakers from around the world. Not a few of these people would trample their grandmother - never mind a few Chinese workers - if they thought there was a buck on the other side of the road. Gates was never going to talk down capitalism, technology or China to an audience like this, no matter which companies are involved.

    The one thing all these extremely rich folks seem to take
  • Insidious Filtering (Score:5, Interesting)

    by karmatic (776420) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:44PM (#14585018)
    I've been comparing some of the differences between the chinese version and the US one.

    Take a look at the Google US search for "Tiawanese Independence [google.com]. Note that the first result is the Tiawanese Independence Party, and #2 describes how Bush Opposes it.

    Now, let's take a look at the french site, to see if the results are similar - "Taiwanese Independence [google.fr]". Very similar results.

    Let's try this on .cn: "Taiwanese Independence [google.cn]". Note that the Independence Party is completly gone from the results. Guess they are subversive.

    Far more insidious than actually banning certain searches is manipulating the results themselves to tout the party line. Leave a few fringe sites up, so you don't appear to completly control things, but remove any site you consider to truly be a threat. After all, they are doubleplus ungood.
  • by Sundroid (777083) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:50PM (#14585061) Homepage
    According to Wikipedia, there are 63 million card-carrying Communist Party members in China (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Party_of_C hina [wikipedia.org]), out of the entire population of 1.3 billion. In other words, less than 5% of the population are lording over the other 95% in a country that the Constitution stipulates that only one party, namely Chinese Communist Party, can govern the nation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_pa rties_in_China [wikipedia.org]).

    During the period of Apartheid in South Africa, American companies that did business with the white-minority government used similar rationale to justify their investments in South Africa. Their basic argument was that if they did not go into South Africa, poor black South Africans would suffer. Most people did not buy their argument then, and those few who did were in the camp of "look, business is business, there's nothing wrong in trying to make a buck". The only saving grace for Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergy Brin, et al, is that people do have short memories.
  • by richdun (672214) on Friday January 27, 2006 @09:23PM (#14585298)
    ...it's the Chinese people's fight. If Google goes in and strongarms the Chinese into accepting freedom of speech, it'll be an American company forcing an American right. If the Chinese people, instead, are given the a glimpse of freedom, but have to fight themselves to get the whole thing, it'll be Chinese people forcing an inalienable Chinese right. You can't force a people to be free if they don't understand what oppression is. If the Chinese people have to fight, fight against their own government, their own rules, their own culture, to be free, it'll stick.
  • by twitter (104583) on Friday January 27, 2006 @11:05PM (#14585888) Homepage Journal
    So, when will we see one of these [veritest.com] as a Google "o"? Now that Google is helping to crush human rights, Bill Gates welcomes them to the club with a VeriTest seal of approval. "Welcome to the big time, boys." a cheerful Gates quipped, "Next year I'll teach you how to sue public school systems so you can grasp the true earning potential locked within."

  • by Anthony Liguori (820979) on Friday January 27, 2006 @11:35PM (#14586047) Homepage
    where Peter annexes his next door neighbors pool and he gets letters of praise from Serbia, Iran, Iraq, etc.

    I wonder if we'll see anyone resigning at Google in protest...

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