Restricted Circulation

The news du jour1 – at least in the geeky world of the intermaweb – has been Google’s agreement to censor its Chinese search engine service, in return for being allowed to operate in China by the government there.

Various “Freedom of Information” groups have criticised the search engine, saying that they’ve gone against their motto of “Do no evil” – although interestingly, I couldn’t find that motto on their website this morning, except as statement number six in their “Ten Things” business philosophy, “”You can make money without doing evil”. To be honest, it doesn’t look to me as if they’ve done much evil here – if they provided a full uncensored Chinese search service, they’d simply be censored by the Beijing government and the Chinese people would be no better off. At least this way they’re getting some search availability, and the searches are said to show clearly where results have been omitted for censorship reasons. I’m not denying that the censorship itself is wrong – it undoubtedly is wrong – but the Chinese goverment, not Google’s Chinese operation, is responsible.

Of course by diversifying into China, Google are going to make more money than they were making before, but you can’t blame them for that: they are a business, after all. But I don’t see that by providing a censored service they are supporting the Chinese regime, when the alternative is no service at all.

Meanwhile, whatever I think, Google will continue to be the best, most ethically-operated search engine generally available. And whatever I think, the Chinese will continue to be stuck with an unreliable, difficult to access version of the internet, where they’re only allowed to view pages approved by their masters. It’ll be a bit like being on AOL, really.

1 Or strictly speaking, the news d’hier, I suppose

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