free html hit counter Here Comes Google China | John Battelle's Search Blog

Here Comes Google China

By - January 24, 2006

As reported earlier, Google decided to go into China a while ago. I spoke to Sergey about this very question a year ago, and he expressed his reservations and his thinking – on balance, Google in China, even if it’s playing by the Chinese government’s rules, is a good thing. Weds, Google will make it official (Seattle PI). They’re in – they’re not standing up to the Chinese government. (Apparently, the DOJ and Wall St., Google can say no to. China….not so much.) The site will be google.cn (not live yet).

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  • Antonio Eggberg

    From Seattlepi:

    “Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted “don’t be evil” as a motto. But management believes it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.”

    Its a worthwhile sacrifice! huh? Well Google’s new motto should be – Don’t be evil but be a dictator. Denying a persons right to know what happen in issues like Taiwan’s independence and 1989′s Tiananmen Square massacre is like denying holocaust. I wonder when will the smart programming brains will start leaving the company. Well I doubt it – Greed is good even when you are complying with evil.

  • http://www.dolmetscherin.com PlutoX

    it is hard to hear, thats google only show serps, with the okay of the chinese gouverment. this is no democratic and against the human rights. a black day in the democratic world.

  • or

    John, in the post you linked to you said that Google would soon decide on its own version of doing business in China. But here you did not point out what that was.

    From my reading it seems their version is the following. One, they will clearly point out to Chinese searchers that results have been censored according to Chinese laws similar to what they do in France and Germany(I don’t think the other search engines in China do this). Second, they are holding back from offering any service that would let them store personal content such as blogger, gmail, google video, google groups because they want to avoid being forced to turn over people’s private info. Also, it seems that for Chinese searches who can get around Chinese firewalls to the regular Google.com, those results will not be censored.

    They still compromised, but they seem to be thinking about and discussing this seriously.

  • http://www.omidyar.net/user/u596126023/ SorenG

    I read that one of the outlawed words is “The Dalai Lama.” Now, if someone does search for this, what happens? Does the Chinese government get this information and pay a little visit to this person’s house for doing such “illegal” activity? I met two Buddhist nuns who were imprisoned and tortured very severely for holding a march in Tibet holding the Dalai Lama’s picture.

    Is Google going to be helping them locate others? How could they agree that “the Dalai Lama” should be illegal to search? Sure, business is business, and there may be good thatg comes from this, but I sure hope they are keeping info on searches out of the Chinese govs hands. If not, what a great way for China to locate and punish anyone interested in a free society.

  • http://whatasavage.com Mark

    China is just too big of market to avoid, so if you have to play be their rules, then so be it. It’s not to say I agree with China’s rules, but when I eat dinner at anothers house I abide by their rules.

  • Andrew

    If someone who will put me in prison or execute me if I talk about the wrong topics invites me to dinner, I will just decline their invitation.

    If I had a few billion dollars to spare, I’d set up distributed web proxies everywhere in the world, so dinner would not be so repressive.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Walter

    Man are you hypocritical, John. I guess no use doing anything that might upset your in at Google — huh?

    Please explain to your readers how when the Department of Justice does an investigation into Child Pornography and asks for non-user-specific data and Google rejects it they are being “heroes” but when Communist China demands full blown censorship to their readers, thereby taking the teeth out of the greatest democratization tool ever, Google “knew they had to make sacrifices.”

    You are disgusting in your hypocrisy. I guess when the US Government tries to allow FBI and CIA to share information for the Patriot Act to *prevent terrorist attacks” = bad. But when Google actually aids and abets an evil regime to support their totaliaranism = good.

    Really really disgusting.

  • http://battellemedia.com John Battelle

    Look for more from me soon, maybe this weekend. But I think you’re missing my intention, Walter. Did I say it was Good? No. In fact, if you read my writing on this, it’s quite the opposite. And the DOJ thing is nuanced, which I’ve covered in previous posts.

  • http://www.aol.com MingusX

    I agree with Walter. Three cheers for Google standing up to the U.S. government. Three cheers for Google taking the necessary steps to compete in China despite censoring users and backtracking on its promise of saving the world with information and goodwill. John, I know you try hard to be objective. But your comments seem like you’re giving them a pass. I thought David Vise’s book was biased….

  • http://battellemedia.com John Battelle

    Giving them a pass? Did you NOT catch my tone in the post? Do you NOT watch the Daily Show? Did you NOT read my book? I got mail from folks at Google today asking why I was beating them up on this issue again!

  • http://www.yahoo.com Walter

    I do not watch the Daily Show religiously; and the tone of your post was almost jocular — that Google feared losing out on Communist China more than it did not allowing a D of J investigation into Child Porn to use their data.

    And I didn’t/haven’t read your book yet though I want to at some point.

    I do however read your blog; and if you’re going to cheerlead your definition of “good” behavior then I just want to know where you stand on the China issue. A reasonable person reading your post would assume you had no problem with it.

    Unlike most people who inhabit the rarefied air in Silicon Valley, I actually trust our own Department of Justice more than two geniuses who are naive enough to think that they are not “evil” while other people are. I certainly trust our own D of J more than the communists who run China.

  • Dennis Chan

    Walter,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. This is the ultimate hypocrisy: Standing up to the most democratic government in the world (United States) while kissing up to one of the most repressive government (PRC). Totally disgusting! How much money is enough? Is $16 billion enough for you? Sergey and Larry? Does greed know no bound? And please take out the “Don’t do evil” motto because you don’t earn it.

  • robert

    Well i hope walter is not buying an xbox 360, nike shoes, dvd player, flat screen tv, or any of the other products coming out of china because that would be supporting the chinese government. Im sure walter has nothing from china in his house because that would make him a hypocrit.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Walter

    You’re missing the point Robert. Whether I understand what Google is doing or not; my issue is with the curious moral relativism (on the surface at least) of Mr. Battelle. That heroism is defying the US D of J but “just doing business” is dealing with totalitarians.

    And there is a big diffence between what Nike is doing and what Cisco and Google are doing in fundamentally enabling that regime. I am calling the reflexive knee jerkism in Silicon Valley for what it is — hypocrisy.

  • http://www.omidyar.net/user/u596126023/ SorenG

    Walter, this is not my read of John’s view, and I look forward to hearing more of his thoughts on it. I do not know the details of this, but it is very concerning to me for these reasons I described earlier. Not because of “business with China” as it is in the censorship and outlawing searches of people like the Dalai Lama — and the consequences people may face if the Gov gets access to people’s searches. I get John shares some these concerns. I liked his quotes from Orville Schell on some of the complexities, and the precedent this may set. I am not ready to look at this and call it “all bad.” I would love to hear more form Google on how they view this. Yes, I do think many of us hold them to hiugher standards than Walmart or MS.

  • http://www.search-this.com mark

    Google’s stance with Department of Justice is a completely different issue from their stance in China. The only thing that the two have in common is that in both cases Google is trying to do what is, for lack of a better word, ‘right’ for the users.

    What are Google’s choices in China? They either supply the Chinese people with a service that has limited / filtered results to information that may or may not be of value to them…or…they don’t enter the market and the chinese people get nothing.

    This has no relationshipo to Google’s stance on the DOJ. Here Google won’t provide sensitive/private information about its clients to an outside union. Again, doing what’s best for the users.

    my 2cents.

  • http://www.omidyar.net/user/u596126023/ SorenG

    Mark, I agree it is a delicate issue. However, I don’t believe that if Google does not do this “the Chinese people get nothing.” Surely, other search engines can and will be available. So it is not like Google is giving them something they otherwise would not have — though it may be slightly better than the other options. Still, I am sure someone will provide them with search, etc.

    If Google does not enter China, they stand to potentially not make a lot more money, that is the issue to me and does their morals allow doing business with China in this way (seems it does). But for the Chinese internet users . . . they will have options (censored of course, as Google will be) to help them. Not sure how Google will help to democritize China more than anyone else already providing search in China. It is about market share — which one can agree with or not, but not to me it is hard argument that Google is trying to give the Chinese people something they would not otherwise have.

  • http://googlesystem.blogspot.com Ionut Alex. Chitu

    The decision wasn’t easy, but they wouldn’t have helped Chinese people if they hadn’t censored the results. This way they will have more sources of information, therefore more chances to find forbidden information.

  • http://www.search-this.com mark

    SorenG, when I say, “the Chinese people get nothing” of course I am talking Google related. Yes, they have search, but, Google is (arguably) the best search engine around. If they want to provide search to the Chinese people they have to play by the established rules – no matter how dumb those rules seem to you and I.

    Since when did making money become immoral or evil?

    Since when did it become Google’s responsibility to help bring democracy to China?

  • sandy

    THIS IS TOO RICH, Just like Larry and Serg….(JJ, I don’t think there is such a thing)

    Once a again a phalanx of SV technocrats fall all over themselves trying to make excuses for Google.

    Google is AN EVIL money grubbing corporation. They do not care about you, your rights, nor repressed Chinese citizens.

    They simply don’t care about anything except for making money off of the work of others. They are no different than any other large company.

    Stop Deifying them, mkay?

    John was definitely not as hard on them as an objective reporter would be. Maybe because he has a vested interest (and I am guessing friendships) in (at) Google.

    I look forward to hearing his further ruminations.

    S.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

    The more I think about this whole situation, the more it makes me ill. It all feels a bit 1984-ish to me.

    http://www.wildhunt.org/googlecampaignforchina.jpg

    I love how news reports keep saying that Google “had” to give in to China’s demands. They “had” to do no such thing. Do they now sign up to the notion that pumping money into China will liberalize it? Seems to work great with Wal-Mart.

  • http://www.omidyar.net/user/u596126023/ SorenG

    Mark, I agree that Google has the best search engine — and believe somehow the Chinese would survive with a pretty good one minus Google.

    You said, “Since when did making money become immoral or evil?”

    It is not. “Outlawing” searches of people like the Dalai Lama, not letting Tibetans have freedom of religion, torturing those who speak out, that’s pretty damn evil in my book. If the “censorship” in search helps to increase these things, then that is not right. Sure, make money, but do it in ways that does not support making certain spiritual teachers “unaccessible” through search. How could Google agree that searching the words “Dalai Lama” should not be allowed, as if the Chinese can try to wipe out the entire Tibetan population and religion in one generation. I am sure Tibetan history in its true sense is also outlawed, so the information people get supports the destruction of a wonderful culture. Doesn’t that seem a little wrong to you?

  • http://shandrew.livejournal.com/ Andrew S

    Google does not block searches on the .cn site; it does something far more evil. Take a look at these search results:

    http://www.google.cn/search?num=50&hl=zh-CN&q=falun+gong

    Compare them to the regular search results:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=falun+gong

    For this search, Google is showing on the .cn site complete misinformation and government propaganda.

    On the other hand, http://www.yahoo.com.cn/ returns an error page if you search for “falun gong”. I believe it is far better (and less evil) to return no search results than government lies, propaganda, and misinformation.

    Andrew

  • http://www.search-this.com Mark

    Let me start by saying that I don’t believe a algorthm can be evil, nor good.

    I am sympathetic to the Tibetan people and their plight at the hands of the Chinese government. But, I don’t see where Google has had a direct or even indirect hand in this. Google provides a service, a search service, and they do a reasonable good job at it, albeit not perfect. If the Chinese government then intervenes and stifles the results; how is this Google’s fault? I would blame the Chinese government, they are the ones that are making Google alter Google and jump through hoops in order to provide what it already provides to the rest of the world.

    That’s the way I see it, I could be wrong.

  • http://www.omidyar.net/user/u596126023/ SorenG

    Good point Andrew. But do a search on Yahoo China for the Dalai Lama, and you get this as the top page:

    http://info.tibet.cn/en/news/tin/t20050908_53946.htm

    Calls the leader greedy, unqualified, and whole bunch of other names, straight from the government. All gov propoganda.

    “Hey,” I can hear the Chinese leaders saying, “This search business is great. It offers us free propoganda, all in the guise of search. What took us so long?”

  • http://www.omidyar.net/user/u596126023/ SorenG

    It is hard to see how Yahoo or Google are not supporting blatant propoganda and the supression of the Tibetan people. If they got a plan for how their presence their will lead to greater freedom, I would love to see it. But from the looks of this, it does not look good.

  • http://searchquant.blogspot.com Chris Zaharias

    There’s already been so many good comments on the irony of Google’s actions in China and w/DOJ that I don’t even need to comment myself, other than to say that I’m ecstatic to see that so many people recognize that

    a)Google can’t give in to China and push back on the DOJ, AND sleep soundly at night
    b)princples matter, even in business

  • http://www.omidyar.net/user/u596126023/ SorenG

    Last comment then I have to hit the rosd for a few days . . .

    A search of the Dalai Lama on Google China is quite similar to the US search. Not much propoganda at all. Takes to his homepage right off. I will be interested to see how long this lasts, after the authorities find out about it. I can only guess that Yahoo had the same listings, until someone from the Chinese Gov gave them a “little talk.” I will do the search again in a few weeks.

  • Tom Olgin

    I just have to laugh at the real motives behind Google’s behavior: trade secrets (Larry’s very paranoid) and money.

    For the DOJ, Google would have to reveal trade-secrets in the form of at least a random sample of URLs in its index. It would also have to reveal at least a random sample of queries. From the former, you can estimate the size of Google’s index more reliably than from methodologies that use queries and intersections with other search engines. From the latter, you can learn a ton about the distribution of queries on Google and hence Adwords, Adsense, etc.

    There is no revenue at stake with the DOJ, only trade secrets and alleged privacy principles, hence the ease with which Google adopted its position.

    For China, Google does not have to leak any trade secrets as it operates the service, only money and principles are at stake. Google has clearly drawn its stakes it the ground: money over principles. The damage is done, no backtracking on this one Google.

    In 1998 Larry and Sergey thought ads were evil, in 2006 they, along with Eric believe, that ads are a benefit to humanity, that Google is a force for global peace, blah, blah, blah, especially now in China.

    Forget the hypocrisy, I’m more worried about the changing nature of Larry and Sergey’s notion of evil. I wonder what they will convince themselves of next that is not evil… oh, I know, child porn…

  • http://shandrew.livejournal.com/ Andrew S

    I expanded on my prior thoughts on this topic here:

    http://lart.stanford.edu/~shandrew/google-cn-propaganda.html

  • Anil

    New motto for google- “Don’t Be Evil – Unless It’s Profitable”.

  • http://kokonutpundits.blogspot.com mcconnell