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Old 01-30-2006   #41
dannysullivan
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I mean, whats the alternative? Should the US have the right to enforce their laws in any part of the world? If so, why should Denmark, China or any other country not have that same right and would the US allow that? Off course not - and they should not!
Mikkel, this isn't a US trying to impose its laws on China situation. It might turn out to be that way down the line. The US might decide that US companies cannot do business in China if they agree to censorship. And the US would be fully within its rights to do that to companies that operate within its borders. If those companies don't like such rules, they can move out.

Similarly, Google could have decided to move out of China. Exactly as you note, they either obey local laws or say thanks but no thanks.

Why not obey any countries laws? You might not obey if you feel those laws are unfair, undemocratic, unreasonable or against your own operating mission. And while Google's mission is to organize the world's information, it also has its "Don't Be Evil" principle.

I find it difficult to swallow the Google line that cooperating with widespread censorship (and by all accounts, it is much more widespread than what the US, France, Germany, Canada and possibly Denmark imposes) fits into the "Don't Be Evil" line.

Let's go back to what Google wrote on its blog last Friday about the move.
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Google users in China today struggle with a service that, to be blunt, isn't very good. Google.com appears to be down around 10% of the time. Even when users can reach it, the website is slow, and sometimes produces results that when clicked on, stall out the user's browser. Our Google News service is never available; Google Images is accessible only half the time. At Google we work hard to create a great experience for our users, and the level of service we've been able to provide in China is not something we're proud of.

This problem could only be resolved by creating a local presence, and this week we did so, by launching Google.cn, our website for the People's Republic of China. In order to do so, we have agreed to remove certain sensitive information from our search results.
OK, that's simply not true. It suggests the only option to giving those in China a speedier Google was to agree to censorship. The other option was not to agree and to come out with a statement saying Google wants to serve China, it knows the Chinese want to use it, but the widespread censorship doesn't fit in with the company's priciples. So if those in China agree, Google would call upon them to ask their government to stop banning access.

We get a long explanation in that post about all the internal debate Google did on this (apparently, a public debate wasn't something the company was willing to endure/try/consider. perhaps that might have made the ultimate decision less shocking). Then we get this:

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We aren't happy about what we had to do this week, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information. But how is that full access most likely to be achieved? We are convinced that the Internet, and its continued development through the efforts of companies like Google, will effectively contribute to openness and prosperity in the world. Our continued engagement with China is the best (perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.

We're in this for the long haul. In the years to come, we'll be making significant and growing investments in China. Our launch of google.cn, though filtered, is a necessary first step toward achieving a productive presence in a rapidly changing country that will be one of the world's most important and dynamic for decades to come. To some people, a hard compromise may not feel as satisfying as a withdrawal on principle, but we believe it's the best way to work toward the results we all desire.
C'mon. If they're in it for the long haul, then I can argue doing the opposite -- not going in right now -- would be a long haul, long term vision. A short term sell out option is to go in now and build a market then naively think that when you're making billions off of China, you'll want to threaten to pull out later.

What exactly is the Google plan for achieving the full access? I didn't see it in the blog post. I haven't seen it explained. It seems to be to have Dr. Kai Fu Lee continue to do recruiting, to keep selling AdWords and paying out commissions and to build the business there first, then worry about dealing with evil later.

Dr. Lee is the head of Google China. You might remember Google fought a big huge case to get Microsoft's non-compete claims off his back. In the midst of all this, Lee explained some of the reasons why he wanted to go to Google:

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No matter how difficult, if you don’t follow your heart and insist on principles, how can suggest other people to do it. Therefore I made a very important choice. I have the right to make my choice. I choose Google, I choose China. I want to do influential things. In China, I can help the youth more and do more influential things. I want to make the best of my own efforts, and in Google I can learn the new creativity model and make myself better.
Look at that first sentence. The man heading Google China says if you don't follow and insist on principles (say "Don't Be Evil"), how can you expect others to do so. Then Google ends their post on the China mess this way:

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To some people, a hard compromise may not feel as satisfying as a withdrawal on principle, but we believe it's the best way to work toward the results we all desire.
In other words, Google won't stick to its principles. And that's the heart of all this. It would be just another company (US, Danish, Argentinian, whatever) agreeing to Chinese demands and a non-issue except that Google itself very publicly set this entire "Do No Evil" thing in motion as a guiding principle.
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Old 01-30-2006   #42
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Mikkel, this isn't a US trying to impose its laws on China situation.
You are right, Danny, I should have said "US company" not "US" as this is offcourse a privat company not the country My point was just that laws and cultures around the world is very different and if you want to be part of the globalized world and do business anywhere you'll have to accept that. There are things my company can do in Denmark that I probably could not do in the US - so I don't. Even if I may not agree with the US laws I try to follow them.

As some of you may have noticed we have a situation in Denmark right now that really illustrates how bad things can go when you don't understand the feelings and traditions of other cultures. In short, a Danish newspaper decided to publish some extremely insulting catoons of the muslim Profet (some of them illustrating the Profet as a terrorist, suggesting that all muslims are terrorists!) - even though they did not how many muslims would react to this. The result is now that most Danish products are being boycut by most of the arab world, some countries have closed their embassies in Denmark, they are burning the Danish flag and have told all Scandinavians to leave the region. It's really bad at this point.

I don't agree with the Chinese cencorship but I don't think it's our job to go down there and tell the Chinese how to rule their country. It must be up to the Chinese people.

If you want to do business in the middle east you have to accept some limitations on how women can act and how local cultures and religon works. If you don't like it, stay out. If you want to do business in China you have to accept the cencorship they have, or stay out.

The problem with Google specifically is that they have been promoting the "do no evil" thing so much that they have to live up to it, and now they don't. It's just not honest.
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Old 01-30-2006   #43
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Originally Posted by dannysullivan
OK, that's simply not true. It suggests the only option to giving those in China a speedier Google was to agree to censorship. The other option was not to agree and to come out with a statement saying Google wants to serve China, it knows the Chinese want to use it, but the widespread censorship doesn't fit in with the company's priciples. So if those in China agree, Google would call upon them to ask their government to stop banning access.
Well now they can do both. AFAIK the Chinese people can still access Google.com the same way they could before. The only difference is that there is now also a Google.cn which is more reliable, faster and serves results that comply with Chinese law. It's often easier to change things from the inside than the outside.

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What exactly is the Google plan for achieving the full access? I didn't see it in the blog post. I haven't seen it explained.
No surprises there. If they explained it, if they even mentioned they had such a plan, it would jeopardise its chances of success.

I would imagine the plan, if one exists, is to provide access to more and more information that the Chinese government hasn't seen fit to censor or gotten round to censoring. The gradual erosion of barriers by consistent pressure. "The truth is out there, China ... here are the tools to find it and disseminate it, now use them to the best of your creative abilities".

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In other words, Google won't stick to its principles.
That's a bit harsh. There is evil in going in. There is evil in not going in. Google has chosen what is, in its opinion, the lesser evil.

The big test of its principles will be the first time the Chinese government asks Google to hand over its search logs!
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Old 01-30-2006   #44
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That's a bit harsh. There is evil in going in. There is evil in not going in. Google has chosen what is, in its opinion, the lesser evil.
I think the motto is "Do No Evil," Alan, not "Do The Lesser Evil." Maybe they need to change that

Evil in NOT going into China? Because how? Because by not agreeing to widespread censorship, Google won't be as fast. This hurts China how? There are plenty of Google alternatives to Google. It doesn't hurt China for Google not to be there. It hurts Google.

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I would imagine the plan, if one exists, is to provide access to more and more information that the Chinese government hasn't seen fit to censor or gotten round to censoring. The gradual erosion of barriers by consistent pressure. "The truth is out there, China ... here are the tools to find it and disseminate it, now use them to the best of your creative abilities".
I would imagine there is no plan. I would imagine the decision is, "let's go in now, maybe it'll get better later."

As for what the Chinese government hasn't seen it to censor, it's actually Google that's doing this on its own. How Google Censors Itself For China & Paid Exclusion As Being Evil explains this more. There seems to be a combination of actual blacklisted sites plus Google making its own decisions on what it thinks the Chinese government won't like showing up. So rather than "getting around" Chinese censorship, Google (like other companies) is helping draft it.

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The big test of its principles will be the first time the Chinese government asks Google to hand over its search logs!
Why? I mean, if that's the local law, what's Google going to do, say no? And say no in a year from now, when that market grows so much they cannot afford to pull out?
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Old 01-30-2006   #45
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I don't agree with the Chinese cencorship but I don't think it's our job to go down there and tell the Chinese how to rule their country. It must be up to the Chinese people.
I agree. It is up to the Chinese people. But countries make changes based in part on the influences of other countries and world opinion. That's part of diplomacy, whether it's government backed diplomacy or citizen-based changes.

South Africa is one of those classic examples where many other countries -- and people all over the world -- disagreed with apartheid. Pressure put on South Africa from outside I think is widely considered to have helped produce change, and I don't think anyone feels bad about that.

The Chinese government will do what it wants, as all governments do. But people outside of China may not agree, may want to influence change, and they may put pressure on companies to do the same. Google itself doesn't seem to feel it can run ads for guns but censorship is OK? Google has made moral decisions as a company on what it will and will not do to earn money, as is its right. Apparently, ensuring that means a search for tiananmen on Google China gets you smiling happy people rather than the tanks you see on uncensored Google.

In other words, the EvilRank formula seems to be this:

Money + Gun Ads = Evil
Money - Tanks = Not Evil
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Old 01-30-2006   #46
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I know this isn't philosophy, but if two options are both evil, what is one to do? Do no evil sounds lovely, but sometimes there are just evil options. What then?

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South Africa is one of those classic examples where many other countries -- and people all over the world -- disagreed with apartheid. Pressure put on South Africa from outside I think is widely considered to have helped produce change, and I don't think anyone feels bad about that.
But is restricting freedom of information, which I believe a complete ban of SEs would be, doing that? IMHO, far worse is perpetrated by all the Joe Lunchpals and Sally Houswives that shop at Wallmart.

I bet a pretty penny that the PRC citizenry online prefer even a reduced Google over nothing.

I wonder as well where compromise lies in all this. If we can't compromise, no progress is possible. if we compromise too much, we risk losing gains. The Googel decision should be viewed in th context not of rigth and wrong, but of which direction the freedoms are moving.

IMHO, and it is just mine, this is a good starting point, especially when the alternative is China reverting to a 100% sanatised web, with only veted sites allowed. No one wants that, not even those that oppose this situation, and if we want to avoid that, we need to look for acceptable compromises, of which this is one.

If, however, this situation stays static for 10 years, I will be calling for reform. But right here, rigth now, if this is as bad as Web Access in China gets, it is a very solid foundation to build from.
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Old 01-30-2006   #47
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But is restricting freedom of information, which I believe a complete ban of SEs would be, doing that? IMHO, far worse is perpetrated by all the Joe Lunchpals and Sally Houswives that shop at Wallmart.
There is no complete ban on search engines. Google was not suffering a complete ban. People trying to search on uncensored Google for forbidden terms would hit problems. Those doing "innocent" searches found the service to be spotted as the Google Blog explained, but not always. In addition, those making use of proxy servers had an easier time. Beyond that, there are other search engines already providing the Chinese with search information. Google owns 4 percent of one of those -- Baidu. Or they can use Yahoo China, or MSN.

In short, it's not a case that if Google didn't do this, the Chinese wouldn't be able to search. It's more that by doing this, they'll be able to better search *specifically with Google* now. That's perhaps a benefit to the Chinese people, if you think Google is that much better than other Chinese search engines. I don't know enough on that to be able to say. But if Google is NOT that superior, then all this does is benefit Google.

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this is a good starting point, especially when the alternative is China reverting to a 100% sanatised web, with only veted sites allowed. No one wants that, not even those that oppose this situation, and if we want to avoid that, we need to look for acceptable compromises, of which this is one
This makes no sense. Before Google did this, they offered an uncensored version that the Chinese government messed with, though there were ways around that. Aside from Google, all the approved search engines are doing that sanation you worry about. Now Google's doing that as well. They're doing disclosure of removals, which is good. But they're still filtering. If anything, they've moved further toward helping what you say no one wants.
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Old 01-30-2006   #48
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Originally Posted by dannysullivan
I think the motto is "Do No Evil," Alan, not "Do The Lesser Evil." Maybe they need to change that
In an environment in which you're "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" then "Do no evil" is clearly impossible.

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Evil in NOT going into China? Because how? Because by not agreeing to widespread censorship, Google won't be as fast. This hurts China how? There are plenty of Google alternatives to Google.
Just like there are outside China too. That doesn't mean that Google should not choose to do business there, too.

What this all seems to come down to - which you in fact said, Danny, and which I agree with - is Google's motto:
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Originally Posted by dannysullivan
It would be just another company (US, Danish, Argentinian, whatever) agreeing to Chinese demands and a non-issue except that Google itself very publicly set this entire "Do No Evil" thing in motion as a guiding principle.
As well as their motto they also have their mission. "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." To do that effectively in China they need to have a presence in China. To have an effective presence in China they also need to have a Chinese Web site. Tf they live by their motto and their mission, it's possible (and it seems Google thinks likely) they can do more good for freedom in China by being there than by not being there. You may not agree. IMO it's too early to see whether the choice they have made is the right one or not, so I'm prepared to wait and see.

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Originally Posted by dannysullivan
Why? I mean, if that's the local law, what's Google going to do, say no? And say no in a year from now, when that market grows so much they cannot afford to pull out?
Yes, I would hope that's exactly what they would say and do, if necessary. And if they don't, then I'm with you - evil. That would be the time to judge. Not yet, IMO.
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Old 01-30-2006   #49
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As well as their motto they also have their mission. "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." To do that effectively in China they need to have a presence in China.
I'll beat the dead horse one more time. Or do that effectively, they need NOT to have a presence in China. Because if a big major company like Google actually stood up and said no, what you want is simply not acceptable, that might promote faster change. It would certainly put pressure on other companies to do the same. Instead, they can all fall back on the "that's just the way it is" argument.

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To have an effective presence in China they also need to have a Chinese Web site.
They had one before this change was announced, at the same place now, google.cn. It simply wasn't as useful because China was doing the blocking.


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Of they live by their motto and their mission, it's possible (and it seems Google thinks likely) they can do more good for freedom in China by being there than by not being there.
They don't seem much worried about freedom. That word's not mentioned once in their official post. What they do say is this:

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Filtering our search results clearly compromises our mission. Failing to offer Google search at all to a fifth of the world's population, however, does so far more severely. Whether our critics agree with our decision or not, due to the severe quality problems faced by users trying to access Google.com from within China, this is precisely the choice we believe we faced. By launching Google.cn and making a major ongoing investment in people and infrastructure within China, we intend to change that.
They make it sound like it was a choice of some information or no information. That's not true. They could have continued to offer Google.cn without filtering just as they still do with Google.com, and people could have continued going there/ But by doing this, they hope to change the usability of the site -- not the fact that material will be censored on it either by Google or China.

OK, they do throw out this bone:

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We aren't happy about what we had to do this week, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information. But how is that full access most likely to be achieved? We are convinced that the Internet, and its continued development through the efforts of companies like Google, will effectively contribute to openness and prosperity in the world. Our continued engagement with China is the best (perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.
Again, nothing about freedom, but certainly something about full access to information. But to say this is "perhaps" the only way isn't correct. It was an easier way. As for how change will happen, it all might have been easier to swallow if they'd provided more details about that, rather than this we'll cross our fingers, build our marketshare, make some money and see what happens approach.

Seriously -- who exactly is going to push for change if not Google? What other company has tried to put themselves forward as having some type of moral grounding in the information business. I simply cannot help but see Google surrender here as a big fat signal to the Chinese government that, at least for US companies, they can continue to do as they please since everyone wants access to the market.
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Old 01-30-2006   #50
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Originally Posted by dannysullivan
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Filtering our search results clearly compromises our mission. Failing to offer Google search at all to a fifth of the world's population, however, does so far more severely. Whether our critics agree with our decision or not, due to the severe quality problems faced by users trying to access Google.com from within China, this is precisely the choice we believe we faced. By launching Google.cn and making a major ongoing investment in people and infrastructure within China, we intend to change that.
They make it sound like it was a choice of some information or no information. That's not true.
Yes, it is true on those instances when Google.com simply is not available - and I think this is what Google is referring to. If their site is not reachable, then it is not there. You also said:
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They had one before this change was announced, at the same place now, google.cn. It simply wasn't as useful because China was doing the blocking.
It might be the same URL, but it now can be located in China - and that's the point. Google wants to locate Web servers in China to serve the Chinese market and provide a reliable service to that market. At the same time it continues to offer the Google.com site which is not a reliable service and which now could be blocked whilst still providing access to Google.cn.
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Seriously -- who exactly is going to push for change if not Google? What other company has tried to put themselves forward as having some type of moral grounding in the information business. I simply cannot help but see Google surrender here as a big fat signal to the Chinese government that, at least for US companies, they can continue to do as they please since everyone wants access to the market.
IMO "surrender" is a loaded and inappropriate word. I still think it's too soon to judge what the effect of this decision will be.
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Old 01-30-2006   #51
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It doesn't hurt China for Google not to be there. It hurts Google.
I think that's very true. Baidu works pretty well, and so do other search engines there. As long as Googles anti-spam systems don't seem to be as effective on non-English sites as they do on English ones, I'm not sure there is a big difference between the search engines in the PRC.

I'm helping run the China Search Marketing Tour and I've been thinking a lot about the effects of search marketing in China recently. There is another thread at SEW about the tour itself, so I'd like to keep this post about search marketing in general and it's effects on the issues raised in this thread.

Some questions:

1) What role, if any, do you see for search marketing in China in view of the censored results? Do you think it will have any effect at all?

2) It's illegal in China to have product comparisions (X is better than Y), even if you back up the claims. How would this affect your marketing?

3) If you object to doing business in China, then should you also object to doing business TO China? Ie offering your products / services to the Chinese market? Is there a difference? Why? What about buying FROM China?

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Old 01-30-2006   #52
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In addition to your questions, Ian, how will Google make sure to comply with the filtering when it comes to cloaked websites?
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Old 01-30-2006   #53
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The real problem that Google has created for itself is that users can see how search engines are able to manipulate search results. Who can from now on believe that whatever search results we see -- also outside China -- are a true reflection of reality or the product of a corporate strategy?
Interesting summary-du-jour from Poynter Online, I liked the "airbrushing reality" comment, good turn of a phrase.
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Old 01-30-2006   #54
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1) What role, if any, do you see for search marketing in China in view of the censored results? Do you think it will have any effect at all?
Of course. You'll have to be careful to avoid using certain words, or linking to certain sites.

<tip>Use words like "the group" instead of "Falun Gong". Link via a cloaked redirect.</tip>

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2) It's illegal in China to have product comparisions (X is better than Y), even if you back up the claims. How would this affect your marketing?
Um, not run comparisons?

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3) If you object to doing business in China, then should you also object to doing business TO China? Ie offering your products / services to the Chinese market? Is there a difference? Why? What about buying FROM China?
And Chinese expats? No objections to any of that. I differentiate doing business with Chinese people from doing business with the Chinese government.
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Old 01-30-2006   #55
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re: cloaking

Ooooooohhh... Leave to to Mikkel to come up with that angle

Excellent question, though. Normally modern cloaking is fairly targeted (though I still disagree with it, we've had that discussion elsewhere and this is not the time to revisit it) but I could see someone with a political agenda cloaking information in order to bypass Google.

As someone once said, "where there is a will, there is a won't".

If I was setting up a censorship system, I'd focus on the ISP's rather than the individual websites. Monitoring clickstreams would seem to be more transparent and effective. I imagine it would be very resource intensive, though. It's way easier to convince or force people to censor themselves.

Speaking of which, here is another problem. IMO, most censorship is initiated or demanded by citizens, not governments. There are a great many people who feel that homosexuality, sex of any sort, political views they don't like, religious views they don't like, other peoples hobbies and a great many other things should be censored.

I'll bet you something else (though I have no proof) - if you took a poll right now, I'll bet that a significant number (and very likely a majority) of people in China would vote in favor of most if not all of the censorship we are discussing.

This is one of the reasons why there are no major "pure" democracies - there is almost always a constitution, charter of rights, etc that helps protect minorites and human rights.

As an example, an advertisor for a popular breath mint ran a TV ad a while ago that was very innocous by US standards and downright boring by European standards, where a man with an unbuttoned shirt dove into a pool to show the cooling effect of the mint in question.

Not only was there a huge outcry about the ad, but they were still getting complaint letters 2 YEARS later! This in an area (Shanghai) where you can easily find sex shops on a large number of street corners.

In China there doesn't seem to be a difference between "daytime" and "nightime" TV. It's assumed that anything parents watch, so could children. Therefore the thinking appears to be that almost everything in the mass media should be rated "G".

That also includes the internet. Once you wrap your head around that, the problem becomes a lot clearer (and more complicated).

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Old 01-30-2006   #56
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Therefore the thinking appears to be that almost everything in the mass media should be rated "G".
I don't know much about the details of US cencorship, but what does tha "G" stand for ? ... Google?
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Old 01-30-2006   #57
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what does tha "G" stand for ? ... Google?
ROFL!

On the off chance you were serious (or someone else doesn't know), it means "General" - ie suitable for all ages.

You know, we need a good industry cartoon strip (like Dilbert, User Friendly, etc), because you just gave me a great idea for an episode, though ,alas, I don't have the artistic skill to actually do it.

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Old 01-30-2006   #58
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Who are the Others?

Are there any other non-Peoples Republic of China search engines left that have significant databases in Chinese and are not censoring their search results to comply with the dictates of the Communist Party of China or the government of the PRC?

Ask? Gigablast? Do either of these have significant Chinese pages indexed and available?
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Old 01-31-2006   #59
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Originally Posted by dannysullivan
I agree. It is up to the Chinese people. But countries make changes based in part on the influences of other countries and world opinion. That's part of diplomacy, whether it's government backed diplomacy or citizen-based changes.

South Africa is one of those classic examples where many other countries -- and people all over the world -- disagreed with apartheid. Pressure put on South Africa from outside I think is widely considered to have helped produce change, and I don't think anyone feels bad about that.
IMHO, South Africa & apartheid was a slightly more obvious case.

Depending on your values, there are many, many countries around the world where the government or the majority of citizens enforce or hold values that are pretty much 180 to mine. Obviously the greatest human suffering should take the most precedent, followed by political repression and severe forms of discrimination.

The fact is, political repression and censorship (similar or worse to what China practices) is rampant around the world. If you take the example of Cuba, there are pockets of investment there -- resorts and so forth. These are European companies mostly who expect rapid growth when things become more free there. They perhaps believe these small zones of free market activity contribute a bit to the push for democracy. Moreover, in these places, CNN and all the major TV stations are available by satellite ... to tourists. Not to locals. Do the hotel companies refuse to do business there? Does CNN refuse to have its feed piped into the hotels? No.

And you could name many places where human rights aren't equal to all people. Places where strict laws apply to women and not men, etc. In most of these places, "Google" -- along with many other technology companies -- do business.

Trying to effect change in the world is simply more complex than boycotting countries that repress or seem backward to someone like me. I don't pretend to know much beyond that.

When I see us cutting off trade in goods, arms, oil, etc. with the dozens of high-profile, repressive, warlike regimes around the world, I'll be willing to squint a little harder at this Google case. I'm not entirely convinced they're doing the wrong thing by keeping a toehold in the world's most populous place, and I assume they believe that they are at least not contributing to repression. Google or no Google, "do no evil" stupid mantra dreamt up by engineering guys who never cracked a history or philosophy book or no stupid mantra, political repression would be something to contend with and advocate against around the globe. Is Google doing business in any given country making it more or less possible for citizens in that country or elsewhere to advocate against repression?
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Old 01-31-2006   #60
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Honestly, Google is doing what all self-deceiving people an corporations do...

Gee, we are so holy that it is better we do this awful thing rather than doing nothing at all and deprive them of our Wonderfullness.

Disgusting. Just as Evil as all other companies doing business there. EvilRank = 7. (Note: EvilRank Slobodon Milosovic = 9, Saddam Hussein = 10)
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