Google Considers Pulling Out of China on the Principles of Equal Access to Information
Google announced today in a lengthy article on the Google blog that it refused to continue censoring its Chinese version of its world dominant search engine. This comes as a result of alleged breaches in Google’s infrastructure in an attempt to access the personal email accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Speculation is rife that China’s government is to blame for such attempted privacy breaches.
Google’s original position, in which it agreed to work with the Chinese government to censor search results, such as the famous Tiananmen square protests of 1989, has always been controversial, and to a certain extent contradicts its founding principles of promoting equal access to information for all. Google has debated its ethical search principles with the Chinese government before; surely this breach of privacy in such a public arena is a step too far for Google to ignore. For Google to take no action here would infuriate many onlookers and severely compromise their public relations.
The following extract is from Google’s official blog post:
“These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”
When you consider the size of the Chinese search market to Google and the rest of the world, such a move could have far reaching affects on the global politics and web culture as a whole, not to mention the stock exchange! Google could be set to lose a large and profitable audience, but could win the favour of an overwhelming majority of western web users that feel Google is making the just ethical decision in refusing to compromise any longer.
One thing we can be sure of is if Google pulls out, others are likely to capitalise on this situation. Could we end up with a Communist vs. Democratic search engine war! The very principles of this incident are set to fuel a public and ethical debate over access to information and privacy principles, one that is long overdue in the eyes of many.