It should come as no surprise to anyone -- least of all to Google founding whiz kids Sergey Brin and Larry Page -- that reporting of their company's recent announcement that it would stop cooperating with Chinese Internet censorship was itself heavily censored in China. Although, as the New York Times noted, "Some big Chinese news portals initially carried a short dispatch on Google's announcement," news of the decision "soon tumbled from the headlines." Later reports omitted all references to "free speech" and "surveillance."
Google is said to be considering shutting down its entire operation in China, and has predictably been getting lots of love and props in the blogosphere for doing the right thing and standing up to the Chinese "Evil Empire."
But does a company with a stated corporate goal of "Don't Be Evil" really deserve praise for finally pulling the plug on its longstanding cooperation with the Great Firewall of Chinese Internet control?
I think not.
After all"what took them so long? Chinese leaders -- with l ots of help from American corporate giants like Google, Yahoo and others -- have been using advanced information and communications technology for years in order to suppress information, communication, knowledge and dissent in the world's most populous country.
Google execs linked the decision to pull back to extremely sophisticated (state-sponsored?) cyber attacks on its systems last week aimed at the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. But given the dismal overall track record of Chinese suppression, how in all reality could they have been surprised by China's latest attack on freedom of speech?
Since entering into its cozy and sleazy 2006 arrangement with China's Market-Leninist regime, Google has readily eliminated banned topics (like, "Tiananmen Square" or "Dalai Lama") from its Chinese search results --- thus aiding and abetting a system of information control that is among the most restrictive in the world. At the time, company officials said that they thought that the benefits of its presence in China ostensibly providing more information and openness to Chinese citizens -- outweighed being forced to censor search results. And the company has been roundly criticized including by this writer for doing so. But despite some muted internal grumblings, Messrs. Page and Brin, along with Google CEO Eric ("The Internet is a cesspool of misinformation") Schmidt, have steadfastly refused to respond until now.
In all likelihood, they are using the current contretemps to step back from a costly investment and what increasingly was a money-losing proposition, having steadily lost market share of late to Baidu, a Chinese-run company with predictably "close ties with the government."
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