Google has “threatened” to pull out of China because – SURPRISE – the government was using Goog to get info on dissidents.
NAHHH? Really? Next you’ll tell me that Mark McGwire was using steroids.
Google … said that the company had discovered massive cyber attacks against itself and numerous other foreign companies that it said emanated from China. It prompted quick response from human rights advocates, who praised Google’s statement, and from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said Google’s allegations "raise very serious concerns and questions." "We look to the Chinese government for an explanation," Mrs. Clinton said on a visit to Hawaii. "The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy."*
Apparently The Googsters draw some sort of distinction between oppression via hacking and oppression via cooperating with government censorship. (See Google continues to be on cutting edge of hypocrisy theory for more on this. “At this point, it would take a mashup of Wittgenstein, Quantum mechanics and LSD to make sense of Google’s various explanations for what it will and won’t censor and why.”)
Not only is Google threatening to take its business and go home but the company took the “too little, too late” step of ending censorship on its Chinese search site. Previously the company 404’d searches on topics like Taiwan or the Tiananmen Square massacre. Were I a more cynical person (it could happen) I’d find it mightily convenient that Google is threatening to leave a nation where it is running a very distant second. I’d also call this threat a great PR move that generated a lot of attention in China. Fortunately I am not that cynical. (Thankfully others are: see this brilliant analysis from TechCrunch “Does anyone really think Google would be doing this if it had top market share in the country?”)
*While La Clinton is a diplomat and has to say things like this raises “very serious concerns and questions,” it is difficult to see my government get so worked about this when it has remained silent on little things like state-sponsored murder and torture. What seems to be different this time is that money is involved.
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When I first read this story, I noticed that Google staff seemed to feel betrayed. “We played by their crummy rules and we were losing. Then we found out they were cheating.” I don’t think companies can be idealistic the way Google says it is, but I do think some of their employees are naive.