Why Google is Wrong

Google logo redesigned by Students for a Free TibetWhen a Chinese person searches on the US Google site and the results include something their government doesn't approve of, the entire results page can get blocked. At least in this case the searcher knows the result is blocked. When Google censors its own database on behalf of the Chinese government, there is no way to tell what results were omitted. Therefore, Google is helping present a skewed version of the world to China's people while obscuring the way and extent to which that view is skewed. Sorry, Google. That's evil.

And to anyone who thinks Google's not doing business in China would be refusing to do business with a country's people because of the actions of its government, think again. It would be the Chinese government that is refusing to allow its people to do business with Google because of the actions of Google. Google would not be the party using force by refusing to kowtow to China's government.

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See, here's what confuses

See, here's what confuses me. Go to google.cn and type in anything you want, including "Taiwanese Independence," "communism sucks," "free Tibet" or "Democracy for China." All of these return responses that you'd expect.

I haven't found out what they seem to be censoring yet.

So what you're saying here,

So what you're saying here, Sean, is that half a loaf is worse than none? Really?

Personally I like TM Lutas' idea: to make up for bending over for the Party, Google can maintain a running list of all the things it's censoring.

Brian - interesting, the

Brian - interesting, the taiwan search doesn't seem to be very censored. But try "falun gong" or "tiananmen square"

Sean - "Google would not be the party using force by refusing to kowtow to China’s government." Explain how Google's strategy uses force.

You can argue with Google's choice to locate servers inside China, but once they do, it is Chinese guns which control what content is allowed to be on those servers.

According to the linked

According to the linked article from the 1/26 Catallarchy post, there will be a note at the bottom of the page saying that results have been removed. If that's true, it doesn't seem to cloak the censorship any more than before.

It seems to me that if users are now getting some results AND a note stating that other results have been censored, it's a better situation for them than getting no results at all.

I don't intend to be

I don't intend to be confrontational, but you are wrong. The Google results include a warning roughly translated into English -

According to the local law laws and regulations and the policy, partially searches the result does not demonstrate.
You are not must look for: Tiananmen

Reasonable people can disagree about whether or not Google should have entered into business in China - but your reasoning doesn't hold up.

It's sort of like the debate

It's sort of like the debate over the ethics (if any) of bribing a corrupt government official in order to bring food to starving people, or if that is too sentimental, to simply do business, offering something that is not available otherwise. Sure, if you refuse to offer a bribe the official (or his higher up) is ultimately responsible, but what is the alternative?

Brian: search for

Brian: search for "tiananmen" on images.google.cn.

Matt: Nonsensical framing of the argument. No response.

Tim: I never said Google was using force. You have made the "affirming the consequent" fallacy. (P implies not Q) does not mean (not P implies Q). I agree with the rest of your comment.

Chris: I have seen that warning. I'm not sure what part of my argument it negates. It's great that it only shows up when results are omitted. However, the very wording of the disclaimer only adds to my argument: Google is lending legitimacy to Chinese censorship. As long as it was the government doing the blocking, Google had a firewall (quite literally). Now that it's Google, their hands are unclean.

Dain: Your analogy is

Dain: Your analogy is totally off base. It's more like putting soma in your food so the corrupt government will allow you to sell it to their people, thus helping to destroy the black market through which the people have been getting undrugged food.

Matt: Actually, I've thought

Matt: Actually, I've thought of a response for you. The full loaf was already being provided via proxies. It just didn't taste that great, i.e. it was slow. So we're talking about half a loaf in both cases here, but one of those half loafs legitimizes the thugs and harms the black market.

I have seen that warning.

I have seen that warning. I’m not sure what part of my argument it negates.

This one:

When a Chinese person searches on the US Google site and the results include something their government doesn’t approve of, the entire results page can get blocked. At least in this case the searcher knows the result is blocked. When Google censors its own database on behalf of the Chinese government, there is no way to tell what results were omitted.

Obviously, there is a perfectly good way to know what results were omitted. As a method of revealing censorship, I fail to see how that warning is any worse than a blank page. Poorly translated Chinese aside, it appears to say clearly that the government doesn't want you viewing this material.

Your objection seems to rest on your dislike of google playing ball with the Chinese government. Fair enough. I may even agree that "Google is helping present a skewed version of the world", but I disagree that they are "obscuring the way and extent to which that view is skewed". Chinese users still know what material their government is censoring, and they get more results.

Stretch: Only now the

Stretch:

Only now the government can simply block foreign search engines entirely and their newfound legitimacy will enable them to crack down even further on the proxies that have been allowing people access to totally uncensored results. Formerly, at least enough people were being "forced" to use proxies by "accidentally" blocked results that at least enough people used proxies to make their use semi-legitimate. Now only outlaws will use proxies.

By taking on some of the burden of censorship and legitimizing it by saying "in accordance with local laws" as if the rule of law even exists in China, Google makes censorship cheaper.

I should point out that now

I should point out that now Sean has shifted his claim from "When Google censors its own database on behalf of the Chinese government, there is no way to tell what results were omitted." to a concern that Google's behavior will hurt the "black market" for internet searching. As Sean puts it,

So we’re talking about half a loaf in both cases here, but one of those half loafs legitimizes the thugs and harms the black market.

Seems to me if they can murder non-violent protesters in broad daylight then whatever small increase in legitimacy Google might have brought them pales in comparison to what they already have.

What's your evidence that the "black market" in proxies is going to suffer? You say this:

Only now the government can simply block foreign search engines entirely and their newfound legitimacy will enable them to crack down even further on the proxies that have been allowing people access to totally uncensored results.

Well they could just as well have done that before. Why, exactly, is this google's problem? I'm reminded of the example of a psycho who kills a bunny rabbit every time you hug your children. It's ridiculous to lay the blame on anyone but the criminal in that scenario. Same with this one; you're trying to shift some of the blame for the criminal actions of the Chinese government onto Google for trading with them.

Only now the government can

Only now the government can simply block foreign search engines entirely and their newfound legitimacy will enable them to crack down even further on the proxies that have been allowing people access to totally uncensored results.

I must ask what evidence you have for making this statement. Microsoft and Yahoo have had Chinese versions of their search engines for a while now (in addition to the Chinese search service Baidu) and there has been no indication that access to US search engines is to be blocked.

Are US companies that

Are US companies that withhold payroll tax just as evil as Google? What about pharmacies that comply with meth-related regulations that limit customers access to cold medicine?

"Formerly, at least enough

"Formerly, at least enough people were being “forced” to use proxies by “accidentally” blocked results that at least enough people used proxies to make their use semi-legitimate. Now only outlaws will use proxies."

No, the past situation was that people who didn't know how to use proxies got no Google searches at all, while people who did know how to use proxies could bypass the Chinese government's filtering. The current situation is that people who don't know how to use proxies can get some Google searches and be informed of search results that have been censored, while people who know how to use proxies can continue to bypass the Chinese government's filtering.

And one of the things that people can get out of www.google.cn is information about proxies. The first few search results on "proxies" are lists of open proxy servers.

By taking on some of the

By taking on some of the burden of censorship...Google makes censorship cheaper.

That's the part that I don't like. But it seems to me that being able to google quickly and effectively in China is a lot of good to go with that bad. As Jim pointed out, it offers ways to find out how to surf uncensored through proxies.

Rodney: Are US companies

Rodney:

Are US companies that withhold payroll tax just as evil as Google?

Would you argue that companies' caving in and withholding does not lend legitimacy to the payroll taxes in the first place? Would you defend them with the same vehemence as you defend Google if they came under attack for this practice?

What about pharmacies that comply with meth-related regulations that limit customers access to cold medicine?

Considering there are not actually any laws (at least in California) that require them to limit access (yet), then they are definitely more evil than Google as far as I'm concerned. They are helping lend legitimacy to the War on People who Use Certain Kinds of Drugs and making it harder for me to get decent cold medicine in the process.

Stefan:

your evidence that the “black market” in proxies is going to suffer? You say this:

Only now the government can simply block foreign search engines entirely and their newfound legitimacy will enable them to crack down even further on the proxies that have been allowing people access to totally uncensored results.

Well they could just as well have done that before. Why, exactly, is this google’s problem? I’m reminded of the example of a psycho who kills a bunny rabbit every time you hug your children. It’s ridiculous to lay the blame on anyone but the criminal in that scenario. Same with this one; you’re trying to shift some of the blame for the criminal actions of the Chinese government onto Google for trading with them.

No, they could not have "just as well" done that before. As I said, they need as much legitimacy as they can get, especially with the Olympics coming up. The more legitimacy they have, the freer they will feel to make their blocking heavier and heavier.

To carry your psycho bunny killer analogy one step further, Google have stopped hugging their children and then blamed it on the psycho.

Patri, I think you and Jim have a good point. More information is probably better, even if it's skewed. However, I am worried about the sort of precedent this sets. More and more foreign corporations are choosing to comply with the demands of the thugs running China, and every additional corporation that does so puts more pressure on further corporations to get into China before it's too late.

BTW, I don't think Microsoft is any less evil in their censorship, and Yahoo is significanly MORE evil since their actions have resulted in someone's landing in prison who does not deserve to be there.

One can legitimately argue that increased contact with Western culture will help bring freedom to China, but that remains to be seen. On the other hand, I fail to see how defending Google's practice helps the cause of libertarianism. We're sending a strong message to companies everywhere that complying with local laws, no matter how ridiculous, for the purpose of getting ahead in business is OK.

Would you defend them with

Would you defend them with the same vehemence as you defend Google if they came under attack for this practice?

Presumably he would. What of it?

No, they could not have “just as well” done that before. As I said, they need as much legitimacy as they can get, especially with the Olympics coming up. The more legitimacy they have, the freer they will feel to make their blocking heavier and heavier.

Who gives a flying crap how they feel? If I get a driver's license am I "legitimizing" the state's road monopoly? If I get a student loan am I "legitimizing" taxation? If I order a sandwhich from an airport am I "legitimizing" the TSA? An easy reductio ad absurdum of your position is that in that sense everyone, even ardent libertarians like Rothbard, "legitimize" the state merely by walking down the street.

Think of it this way: What do you mean by "legitimize"? I can only think you mean that Google's act will make people more inclined to believe that censoring information is ok. Well so what? That's an invalid inference. Why should Google care if people are too dumb to figure out the censoring is not voluntary on Google's part?

As for the supposed danger to the black market, my psycho analogy makes perfect sense. Their government is a gang of crooks and anything that can weaken their power by creating more wealth for private individuals can only be good.

One can legitimately argue that increased contact with Western culture will help bring freedom to China, but that remains to be seen.

It may not be western culture exactly, but yes, I think Google will be able to make money by doing what they're doing.

On the other hand, I fail to see how defending Google’s practice helps the cause of libertarianism. We’re sending a strong message to companies everywhere that complying with local laws, no matter how ridiculous, for the purpose of getting ahead in business is OK.

"We" are sending no such message. Again, your reasoning could be used to condemn getting a driver's license because then "we" would be "sending a strong message that ... complying with local laws, no matter how ridiculous, for the purpose of getting ahead in business is OK." Damn straight it's ok. If you want to provide a service, but have to limit it's scope because of threats, it's still a good, although maybe not a very profitable one. It's also great to provide a service and ignore the threats altogether. But Google is not required to lose market opportunities that make people better off because you disapprove of the local criminal gang and its operations.

On the other hand, I fail to

On the other hand, I fail to see how defending Google's practice helps the cause of libertarianism. We're sending a strong message to companies everywhere that complying with local laws, no matter how ridiculous, for the purpose of getting ahead in business is OK.

How far should we take this principled stand? Should hospitals close shop because the government mandates that they treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay?
Should doctors stop practicing medicine because the AMA has a monopoly of providers?
Should phrama stop inventing medicines that save our lives because the FDA makes decisions for us about how much risk our health and happiness are worth?

Of course businesses should operate within the law, otherwise there would be no business and we would all be worse off. Given a choice I would rather live in a society that offered me choices between sub-standard products (China with Google) than a society that offered me no choice but government.

Chris: How far should we

Chris:

How far should we take this principled stand? Should hospitals close shop because the government mandates that they treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay?
Should doctors stop practicing medicine because the AMA has a monopoly of providers?
Should phrama stop inventing medicines that save our lives because the FDA makes decisions for us about how much risk our health and happiness are worth?

Of course businesses should operate within the law, otherwise there would be no business and we would all be worse off. Given a choice I would rather live in a society that offered me choices between sub-standard products (China with Google) than a society that offered me no choice but government.

No, there is no "of course" about it, and you're presenting a false choice. When businesses refuse to comply with onerous laws, laws change. If the drug companies in 1968 decided to continue marketing their drugs however they liked, there is no possibility we would have ended up without drugs. China wants foreign investment. If that required relaxing or eliminating their censorship laws, then they would. However, Google, MS, and Yahoo have said "we don't think your censorship laws are too onerous to do business in your country." Shame on them.

If there were no hospitals complying with the requirement to treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay, I would attack the first several hospitals that decided to comply, because they would be the first defectors. If the drug companies in 1968 decided to continue to market their drugs however they wanted and a few companies started to comply with FDA requirements, I would attack those companies. I'm not saying Google should close up shop, I'm saying they should not comply with bad laws. Nobody should, but I'll only attack the first few defectors, and I'll always defend anyone who refuses to defect or undefects.

If there were no hospitals

If there were no hospitals complying with the requirement to treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay, I would attack the first several hospitals that decided to comply, because they would be the first defectors.

Or in a newly-minted government the first few people to pay taxes? It sounds to me like you think defecting in a prisoner's dilemma isn't merely irrational, but positively evil...

If there were no hospitals

If there were no hospitals complying with the requirement to treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay, I would attack the first several hospitals that decided to comply, because they would be the first defectors.

Or in a newly-minted government the first few people to pay taxes? It sounds to me like you think defecting in a prisoner's dilemma isn't merely irrational, but positively evil...

If the "disclaimer" were

If the "disclaimer" were something which Google held in high importance, they'd put it at the top of the search results, not at the bottom. Over 80% of searchers never scroll to the bottom of the page.

If the “disclaimer” were

If the “disclaimer” were something which Google held in high importance, they’d put it at the top of the search results, not at the bottom. Over 80% of searchers never scroll to the bottom of the page.

I find that implausible. Do you mean that people scroll to the bottom in only 20% of searches?