UPDATE (August 17, 2018): Google Admits It Has Chinese Censorship Search Plans – What This Means
UPDATE (August 9, 2018): Google Must End Its Silence About Censored Search in China
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It’s already happening. Within a day of word that Google is reportedly planning to provide Chinese government-dictated censored search results and censored news aggregation inside China, the Google Haters are already salivating at the new ammunition that this could provide Congress to pillory Google and similarly castrate them around the world — for background, please see: “Censored Google Search for China Would Be Both Evil and Dangerous!” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/08/01/censored-google-search-for-china-would-be-both-evil-and-dangerous).
While Google has not confirmed these reports, the mere prospect of their being correct has already brought the righteous condemnation of human rights advocates and organizations around the globe.
And already, in the discussion forums that I monitor where the Google Haters congregate, I’m seeing language like “Godsend!” – “Miracle!” — “We couldn’t have hoped for anything more!”
It’s obvious why there’s such rejoicing in those evil quarters. By willingly allying themselves with the censorship regimes of the Chinese government that are used to repress and torment the Chinese people, Google would put itself in the position of being perceived as the willing pawn of those repressive Chinese Internet policies that have been growing vastly more intense, fanatical, and encompassing over recent years, especially since the rise of “president for life” Xi Jinping.
Already embroiled in antitrust and content management/censorship controversies here in the U.S., the European Union, and elsewhere, the unforced error of “getting in bed” with the totalitarian Chinese government will provide Google’s political and other enemies a whole new line of attack to question Google’s motives and ethical pronouncements. You can already visualize the Google-hating congressmen saying, “Whose side are you on, Google? Why are you helping to support a Chinese government that massively suppresses its own people and continues to commit hacking attacks against us?” We’ll be hearing the word “hypocritical” numerous times during numerous hearings, you can be sure.
We can pretty well predict Google’s responses, likely to be much the same as they made back in 2006 during their original attempt at “playing nice” with the Chinese censors, an effort Google abandoned in 2010, after escalating demands from China and escalating Chinese hacking attacks.
Google will assert that providing some services — even censored in deeply repressive ways — is better than nothing. They’ll suggest that the censored services that would be provided would help the Chinese citizenry, despite the fact that the very results being censored, while perhaps relatively small in terms of overall percentages, would likely be the very search results that the Chinese people most need to see to help protect themselves from their dictatorial leaders’ information control and massive human rights abuses. Google will note that they already censor some results in countries like France and Germany (for example, there are German laws relating to Nazi-oriented sites).
But narrow removal of search results in functional democracies is one thing The much wider categories of censorship demanded by the Chinese government — a single-party dictatorship that operates vast secret prison and execution networks — is something else entirely. It’s like comparing a pimple with Mt. Everest.
And that’s before the Chinese start escalating their demands. More items to censor. Access to users’ identity and other private data. Localization of Google servers on Chinese soil for immediate access by authorities.
Worst of all, if Google is willing to bend over and kowtow to the Chinese dictators in these ways, every other country in the world with politicians unhappy with Google for one reason or another will use this as an example of why Google should provide similar governmental censorship services and user data access to their own regulators and politicians. After all, if you’re willing to do this for one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, why not for every country, everywhere?
As someone with enormous respect for Google and Googlers, I can’t view these reports regarding Google and China — if accurate — as anything short of disastrous. Disastrous for Google. Disastrous for their users. Disastrous for the global community of ordinary users at large, who depend on Google’s search honesty and corporate ethics as foundations of daily life.
Joining with China in providing Chinese government-censored search and news results would provide haters and other evil forces around the planet the very ammunition they’ve been waiting for toward crushing Google, towards putting Google under micromanaged government control, toward ultimately converting Google into an oppressive government propaganda machine.
It could frankly turn out much worse for the world than if Google had never been created at all, 20 years ago.
I’m still hoping that these reports are inaccurate in key respects or in their totality. But even if they are correct, then Google still has time to choose not to go down this dark path, and I would strongly urge them not to move forward with any plans to participate in China’s repressive and dangerous totalitarian censorship regime.