We meant to write about this yesterday, but decided to play with our dog instead. Blame the pre-holiday malaise. Anyway, now many other blogs have made the same points we wanted to make, so we will summarize … and then go play with our dog again.
Knees have been jerking all over the place with reactions to Google’s launch of google.cn, a search engine based in China with results that are — and Google readily admits this — censored to appease the Chinese government. (Here is our previous post on this.) Much of the Western world is aghast that Google could so brazenly cozy-up to the commies. There are calls to boycott Google, to dump Google stock and countless plays on Google’s “don’t be evil” motto.
Are we wrong to wonder what’s the big deal? Let’s look at some facts:
1. It is obvious to users of google.cn that the site has been censored: As Danwei pointed out, these characters appear at the bottom of every search results page on google.cn: 据当地法律法规和政策，部分搜索结果未予显示 . That means, “To comply with local laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not displayed.” Never has it been more obvious to Chinese internet users that the government picks and chooses what they can and cannot see. We are not aware of other Chinese sites that make such an admission. Censorship is going to happen one way or another on the Chinese internet — that is not Google’s fault — isn’t it better that the search engine admits that it is happening?
2. google.com, the original version, is still accessible in China: And, yes, you can search it in Chinese. And, yes, you can still get all of the “bad” results you could get when using it before the launch of google.cn. Thus, if people get tired of the censored results at google.cn, they can log on to google.com. (Why anyone would choose google.cn in the first place, we’re not sure. Speed? More Chinese results?) We did a test search of a “bad” phrase in Chinese. You can compare the google.com results with the google.cn results. Quite a difference. But all of the “superbanned” sites still show up on the google.com results. Of course, clicking on the links will send you nowhere without the use of a proxy server. But that is nothing new. And it’s not Google’s fault. (What about Chinese college students who use campus connections that can only access the Chinese internet? Yep, they still can’t access google.com, so nothing has changed there. But now they at least have google.cn, which admits that it is censored, unlike other options.)
3. Google is not the first foreign company to make concessions in order to do business in China: Let’s be realistic, people.
The worst-case scenario would be if the Chinese government blocks google.com. It’s happened before. Could happen again. They can block whatever the hell they want. And if that block happens because of the addition of google.cn, then we will change our tune a little bit. But let’s hope there was some kind of we’ll-give-you-google.cn-and-you-let-us-keep-google.com arrangement made.
We may be wrong — in fact, we hope we are — but we suspect a very small percentage of Chinese internet users are interested in searching for “bad” words anyway.
OK, dog is getting antsy. Time to play. We leave you with some further reading, some of which we used Google to find.
Google China: Reshape one’s foot to fit into a red shoe (Danwei)
This is a disgrace, but the disgrace is not Google’s (Danwei)
Sites Google Agreed to Censor in China (outer-court.com)
Google in China: degrees of evil (RConversation)
In praise of Google in China (Imagethief)
(Moral) Work in Progress (Life After Jiangxi)
I promise this will be the last entry about this storm-outside-a-tea-cup (Life After Jiangxi)
Google to censor results in China (Peking Duck)
The Real Cost of Google’s Sellout to China (Editor & Publisher)
Brownie points for Google (China Herald)
Google logo of what we had for lunch made with logogle.com.