Will China Change Google? Or Has the Company Already Changed?

business_ethics_highlights_2Google has a troubled history when it comes to China. They’ve long debated, sometimes quite publicly, whether it’s better for folks in China to have a censored Google search, or none at all. Add to that the fact that it isn’t exactly only countries like China that seek to interfere with search results: Canada has asked Google to censor search results; and, as the author of the piece below points out, “in Europe, a ‘right to be forgotten’ rule has forced Google and other search engines to remove results that are judged to invade people’s privacy.” Those examples aren’t morally equivalent to the Chinese government’s much more extreme censorship, but they do help highlight the range of challenges a company like Google faces.

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LINK: Google Tried to Change China. China May End Up Changing Google. (by Farhad Manjoo for NY Times)

… “Google is not a conventional company,” the search engine’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, told investors as part of the initial public offering in 2004. Google, they said, would always put long-term values over short-term financial gain. “Making the world a better place” would be a primary business goal, and Google’s ethical compass could be summed up in a simple and celebrated motto: “Don’t be evil.”

In the years since, Google’s once-revolutionary sensibility has been adopted and watered down by much of the rest of the tech industry, becoming the stuff of parody and skepticism. Google itself has played down its former zealousness; Alphabet, its parent company, recently dropped some references to “don’t be evil” from its code of conduct.

Still, if you work at Google or have bought into its missionary brand, you can point to moments when its ethos did rise to something more than marketing puffery. The most obvious example: In 2010, after four years of attempting to operate a censored search engine in China under a regime there that was becoming increasingly hostile to online freedoms, Google did something that a more conventional company would not have done. It said that it had had enough, and pulled its search engine out of the massive market….

What do you think?


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