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Are Web Firms Giving in to China?

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the taking-care-of-business dept.

Google 318

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "Google and other Internet companies are sending executives to Capitol Hill for a hearing next week seeking to answer the question: Are U.S. companies giving in to China's censorship demands too easily? Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House human-rights subcommittee that is holding the hearing, tells the Wall Street Journal, 'I was asked the question the other day, do U.S. corporations have the obligation to promote democracy? That's the wrong question. It would be great if they would promote democracy. But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.' The WSJ notes an irony: Google is fighting for 'Internet freedom' in the U.S., by resisting the Justice Department's request for information on user searches."

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318 comments

money is money... (2, Interesting)

scenestar (828656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695728)

China has one of the fastest growing markets

Don't expect a company to take ethics over profits.

Re:money is money... (4, Insightful)

kinzillah (662884) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695746)

True. But wouldn't it be nice if there was a little shift from caring solely about shareholder profits and a little ethics got thrown in?

Re:money is money... (1)

scenestar (828656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695764)

and it would be nice to solve end world hunger and the conflict in the middle east too.

Re:money is money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696049)

Nuke 'em all!

Re:money is money... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695847)

Legally corporate executives are obligated to care about shareholder profits above all else, up to the limit of what the law allows. They either do so, or are replaced, and perhaps sued if it is profitable to do so (usually not).

Unless the law explicitly forbids an activity, you cannot expect a publicly held corporation to be moral, merely legal. Private corporations can do what they want, but usually aren't as well funded and thus influential.

Re:money is money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696087)

Get off your damn high horse. When you do business in someone else's country, you respect their laws. Do you think it'd be smart for a company like AllOfMp3.com to set up shop in the US and continue to blatantly violate copyrights?

You people need to stop expecting corporations to be anything more than what they are: businesses. They're not meant to be shining beacons of democracy or any other ideological bullshit. Google's playing by China's rules, and if you find that hard to deal with, use a different search engine.

Re:money is money... (2, Insightful)

frazzydee (731240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695821)

I don't think that people are upset about this because 'a company' is doing it...IIRC all the other major search engines censor results for searches coming from China. The reason that google is being targetted is because they claim that their motto is "don't do evil." If they don't believe in that anymore, then they shouldn't still advertise it. I personally don't expect most companies to take ethics over profits; however, I expect different things from google for the simple reason that they told me I should.

Question for the Alarmists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695828)

Which is worse: an American company doing business in China, bowing to Chinese censorship (eg Google), or a Chinese company doing the same (eg Baidu)?

The former extracts wealth from China. The latter only adds more wealth to the existing Chinese establishment.

(PS: As an AC, Slashcode gave me the following CAPTCHA: "dissent")

Re:money is money... (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695892)

Don't expect a company to take ethics over profits.

Considering they're required by law to maximise their profits, no crap. They can't choose ethics over profits.

Re:money is money... (2, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695977)

They're obligated to work for shareholder benefit. This does not always mean maximising profits. Many companies have explicit ethical policies. Many Investors invest based on these concerns.

Re:money is money... (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695924)

Personally I think the question is more about what the United States should do, as expecting anything of the companies themselves has proven unrealistic. They are happy to reap the benefits of freedom and democracy but will never lift a finger to protect or promote it.

As for our government, it's ironic that we sacrifice our troops for democracy on the one hand, then sell out democracy so cheaply on the other hand when the almighty buck speaks. We are running a $201,000,000,000 [sfgate.com] annual trade deficit with China. That means every year, any disparity in world influence between the two countries decreases by twice that amount, half a trillion within the next year or two. And we rationalize it all with the notion that we'll have our cake and eat it too, that buying $30 DVD players from China is the best way to assure international goodwill and freedom for their people. When in fact the Soviet Union was defeated with precisely the opposite approach.

Re:money is money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695961)

I'm not sure what the issue is here? Are people arguing that companies shouldn't follow the laws of the juristiction they are in?

Corporation can behave like d~cks but not in this particular case. Who are the dorks that are trying to suggest that companies should be outlets for the political agenda of some politician? Are we now all agents for the government?

To self-righteous hypocritical politicians who use cheap imported goods from China....

If you don't like the human rights records of a particular country then create trade restrictions--- otherwise just shut up because your giving us all a headaches with your gibberish.

Re:money is money... (1)

MaelstromX (739241) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696051)

If you don't like the human rights records of a particular country then create trade restrictions--- otherwise just shut up because your giving us all a headaches with your gibberish.

You're completely right. Not one of these loud mouthed politicians is concerned about the human rights situation in China (a "most favored nation" in trade, don't forget). They're just grandstanding to build up goodwill among their constituents and/or voters in future elections.

hmm (-1, Redundant)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695731)

Yes.

Re:hmm (2, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695954)

Bwahahahahahaha...

But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.

Excuse me... It is possibly my extremely short and volatile memory... But wasn't United Fruit an American company? How many dictatorships in Latin America were planted and maintained in its name in the last century?

So as far as historical precedent is concerned the answer is definitely and clearly NO. America promotes what is good for american business. In the 20th century it was "if it is necessary to promote a dictatorship so that there are no trade unions and fruit and oil prices are cheap than it shall be a dictatorship". Now it is "if it is necessary to promote a dictatorship so that there are no independent trade unions and toy, textile and electronics prices are cheap than it shall be a dictatorship".

Nothing has changed and nothing is going to change unless the fundamental nature of who pulls the strings on Capitol hill changes.

a moral imperative (4, Insightful)

EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695737)

But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.

Sure they do, as much as any American company or person. But why should Google be singled out while 90% of my consumer goods come from China? Many of those manufacturers have willingly or unwittingly participated in things worse then censorship.

Re:a moral imperative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695781)

Same reason Jimmy Swaggart gets raked over the coals for hiring a hooker, even though hundreds of thousands of men do it every year. It's not the deed itself that's newsworthy, it's the fame of its subject and the hypocrisy involved.

Re:a moral imperative (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695891)

Many of those manufacturers have willingly or unwittingly participated in things worse then censorship.

As have their customers, of course.

(Nothing personal, I know for a fact some of the stuff I own was made in China, so I'm in there too)

There's a big difference ... (1)

vlad_petric (94134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695930)

... between trading with a dictatorship and being an instrument of censorship for that dictatorship.

Re:a moral imperative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696050)

China is NOT a dictatorship, elections actually exist... just one main party. You Americans really need to respect sovereign soil and laws. Besides what would you rather: free speech or affordable healthcare and education? The US is just as bad when it comes to censorship - remember the way communists were treated during the cold war? or how your government spies on it's own citizens? Wake up America because your democracy is nothing more than a hypocrisy.

Re:a moral imperative-Google's Stance (2, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696081)

why should Google be singled out while 90% of my consumer goods come from China?

Because Google promotes themselves as the Do no Evil company. Most other companies don't.

Just wondering... (4, Insightful)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695739)

What's the difference between Google and Microsoft censorship in China and the sweatshops established by almost every major industrial company in the U.S.? It's okay to force starving children to work for 13 cents an hour, but taking down some democratic journalist's blog in China is not?

What the fuck? Can we start with the worst that US companies are doing first, please?

Re:Just wondering... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695818)

Google and Microsoft do not donate nearly as much money to those in DC. The factory owners donate a lot of money to those in DC...

IOW, this is nothing more than a shake down.

Re:Just wondering... (1, Insightful)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695898)

Exactly. I cannot express how sickened and frustrated I am at how modern day American corporations are allowed to behave in such extremely dishonorable manners throughout the world. As far as I can tell, privatized control over corporations is little about helping the economy and more about theiving power over society from the hands of the people into those of the powerful.

Every corporate entity needs to be held more accountable not only to the law and the courts, but to the people. If corporations act in a dishonorable manner, then they should not be allowed to do business in the United States, the same way we impose economic sanctions on dishonorable countries.

Quite frankly, I think the American public can stand to lose some commodities to increase the overall dignity of commerce in general. If you want to do business with American citizens, you should be held completely accountable to our code of ethics wherever your company does business. If you do not pay fair wages and treat your workers humanely, do not bother our markets with your wares.

Starving (3, Informative)

XanC (644172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695844)

It's that work, which is a reasonable wage there, which prevents people from starving.

Excuse me? (1)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695995)

Pardon? Are you trying to be cute?

I can't believe I'm actually going to argue this. So, the war torn countries like Vietnam, now impregnated with unexploded ordinance and lands rendered almost unfarmable by chemical warfare (agent orange, anyone?) should be considered lucky to have to work 14 hour days every day of the week for pennies on the hour?
And in countries where American produce and farming corporations took the land from the native people? Where are they supposed to get their food again?

Right, I forgot, the peoples of the world had no idea how to farm before American corporations came along, no idea how to feed themselves.

Lets not even get into the extremely dangerous working conditions of the factories, where limbs can be lost in an instant and chemical poisons are barely contained, and any injury gets you fired.

You are the worst example of an American citizen.

you just have no idea... (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696072)

It's the going wage in those areas. It is a living wage. It's not worse than paying people $4.50 here.

Also, agent orange breaks down over time. The risk to the healt of the people there now is virtually nil.

You're right about the working conditions, they're bad. It varies from plant to plant as to the actual danger, but they're all more dangerous than in the US. I don't know what to say about it other than the domestic employers don't treat their employees any better. Kinda sucks.

Prove it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695846)

Prove that sweat shops exist in China today. Prove it.

Re:Just wondering... (1)

4e617474 (945414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695932)

What's the difference between Google and Microsoft censorship in China and the sweatshops established by almost every major industrial company in the U.S.?
 
In any rational, objective sense Google and Microsoft come out ahead. (Though by how much is a worthy subject for debate.) The problem is that giving MFN status was supposed to bring capitalism to China, and that capitalism is supposed to be the heart and soul of Democracy and a democratizing force unto itself. If factory work didn't do it, then getting onto The Information Superhighway (you and I know what a hackneyed cliche that is, but we're talking politics) was definitely supposed to. Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft are being made the scapegoats for reality not bearing out the rationalizations thrown out to justify US foreign policy.

Re:Just wondering... (1)

cf18 (943501) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695957)

Insightful my ass! What kind of moron would think there can be any child labour in China after 20 years of one one child policy?

And how about starting with your racist media first? Throw up a headline every week for China's censorship. But when your government offical abuse the human right of a Chinese woman in USA you can barely hear a beep: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/local/story/390243 p-331042c.html [nydailynews.com]

Re:Just wondering... (1)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695969)

Actually, I was referring to the sweatshops in third world nations around the globe, not China...

What exactly is this "one one child policy" you speak of?

what is that link supposed to prove? (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696097)

She miscarried. The officials say they got medical attention immediately. And there isn't any evidence to the contrary.

It's ridiculous to condemn the US based upon one woman's bald assertion and no actual evidence.

Do you have any evidence to add? Or were you there or something?

Re:Just wondering... (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695987)

1) Companies don't force anyone to work. If children are being forced to work, it's their parents that are doing the forcing.

2) Companies offer a resonable wage based on the market in that area. This isn't done only to minimize costs but also because doing otherwise would have negative repercussions for the area in question. Imagine that you're an engineer in a third-world country making $100 a month working for a local company. Then Nike moves in, and, because they keep getting accused of using slaves to make their product ( mostly by well meaning individuals with long hair and sandals), they offer $6 an hour to anyone willing to work in their factories. Now, where's the incentive for anyone to go to school and become an engineer, doctor, or a scientist, when they can make more money working in a factory making shoes?

3) Regaurdless of the other two points, children being forced to work and making 13 cents an hour is better than children not being able to work and starving to death as a result.

Re:Just wondering... (1)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696030)

No, sorry, I already wasted enough breath with one of you "little children should be happy to be working in deathtrap factories" assholes. Grow up and pay attention in political science class.

Re:Just wondering... (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696044)

I think we've identified the problem. Try studying anything but political science to get an idea of how the world works.

Re:Just wondering... (1)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696062)

Right. You go on ahead believing that letting companies turn kids into wageslaves so you can buy your precious products for cheap is making the world a better place. That's reality.

Of course they are (2, Informative)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695743)

Where else in the world can capitalism legally exploit human rights for big time savings? Not only that, but all the manufacturing waste can be dumped in the river behind the factory - no EPA!! woohoo!!

hypocracy (2, Insightful)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695747)

It seems to me that if people from foriegn lands called in death threats and bomb threats to companies like yahoo where it might not be illegal in a far away foriegn land, yahoo would be outraged and they wouldn't take that kind of threat to their security. But if they turn in people who literally get tossed in jail for 40 years for free press, then it's just business as usual - and they are acting within the laws of the countries they do business in.

It's different with China (3, Insightful)

cmorriss (471077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695755)

he WSJ notes an irony: Google is fighting for 'Internet freedom' in the U.S., by resisting the Justice Department's request for information on user searches."

Not much of an irony when you consider that by fighting in the U.S. they're not risking losing the entire market, whereas in China, trying to fight the government can get google banned from the entire market.

Re:It's different with China (1)

frazzydee (731240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695799)

If you ask me, I think google is far more adamant about internet freedom in the US because doing so will get them more customers than in China. If they defend their customers' rights here, it'll get them more respect and marketshare, as I'm sure a number people look up to google and promote it because of their "don't do evil" philosophy. I, for one, would not use a search engine that I knew would compromise my privacy. On the contrary, following this philosophy in china will guarantee them /less/ customers, as they'll get blacklisted from the entire country. If they really truly believed in their philosophy, they would follow it by hook or crook, regardless of how many customers they'd lose.

But in the end, whether it's defending internet freedom or promising not to do evil, Google's core morals are no longer really a philosophy as much as a way of looking cool to the right people. Oh, how I wish they hadn't gone public...

Re:It's different with China (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696019)

But in the end, whether it's defending internet freedom or promising not to do evil, Google's core morals are no longer really a philosophy as much as a way of looking cool to the right people. Oh, how I wish they hadn't gone public...

Why do you think it matters whether or not they are a public company?

Not quite right (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695884)

IMO, the reason there is no irony in Google acceding to Chinese demands while fighting in U.S. Government is because China doesn't have any laws to say otherwise.

China and the U.S. play by a different set of rules. What is okay in China is not okay in the U.S.

The law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695769)

They also have an obligation to follow the laws of the land. Nobody seems to think China has the right to impose their laws on American companies, which is bullshit. I remember years ago when some punk kid from Minnesota went over to Singapore and was spraypainting stuff, the punishment was caning. People argued over it here also, but I think he ended up getting his deserved punishment, and imo rightfully so.

If some Chinese company comes over here, they play by our rules. Why should American companies expect to be treated differently by Chinese companies?

Re:The law (1)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695783)

Some people believe there is such as thing as justice, and that it is more fundamental than the laws of a state.

Re:The law (-1, Flamebait)

John Nowak (872479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695785)

They also have an obligation to follow the laws of the land. Nobody seems to think China has the right to impose their laws on American companies, which is bullshit.

The only thing that's bullshit here is your post. If China had a law saying that Google had to turn over anyone searching for info about the Tiananmen Square massacre, and that those people would be shot... Do you honestly think that Google has an obligation to do that!? You are absolutely mad! An unjust rule is not one that should be followed, especially if the rule is in a country different than the company making the choice! There is NO EXCUSE for the behaviour of these companies.

Re:The law (2, Interesting)

TechieHermit (944255) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695887)

Well, what they COULD have done is implement a technical solution. For example, they COULD simply NOT LOG anything. If they aren't tracking what people are looking at, it simply isn't possible for them to give anybody up, which solves the whole problem -- temporarily. China could demand that they implement some tracking technology, they could answer that they will do their best, but that they can't promise anything, and maintain an impasse for some time.

Of course, what China would probably do is start logging things at some intermediate point between the user and Google, and set up some sort of scheme to identify and track all packets touching Google's site (they probably already do this, mind you). And then we'd be right back where we started, with people getting nailed for their internet searches.

At that point, Google could respond by forcing SSL for all visits to their site, so that even if packets are tracked by an ISP, they can't be read. At which point the Chinese government could either shut them down entirely, or imprison all their staffers in-country and "nationalize" all Google's assets in country, turning them into a state-run Google which is much worse than the Google that's already there.

It's a hopeless situation, unless you're willing to simply refuse to offer service to China. I think what Google is saying is, this is a situation we can't do anything about, and having SOME access to internet searches is better than none, even if certain searches may be singled out by the government.

Sometimes, it may not be possible or practical to do what you consider to be the "right" thing. Sometimes, you have to accept the "least awful" thing.

Re:The law (1)

theonlyholle (720311) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695911)

You see, the thing is Google is *not* in a different country - they actually have a subsidiary in China and it's that subsidiary that's offering the service to the Chinese. And of course they have to operate according to the law - there is no special law for Americans, no matter if they like it or not. They can of course choose to not operate in China if they don't like the law - then the Chinese government will just block access to Google in the "great firewall" (as they already do with access to the international versions of Google) and that's the end of the story...

Re:The law (1)

John Nowak (872479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695979)

China needs search engines more than the engines need China. If Google, Yahoo, etc, had some balls, and said "there is no way we can technically censor the information", China would probably fold. Would be very ugly for chinese business for quite some time until China came up with an alternative.

Re:The law (2, Insightful)

st0rmshad0w (412661) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695939)

The only thing that's bullshit here is your post.

So, by your argument US law would have no bearing on foriegn companies doing business here? Hell it barely has a hold on US comapnaies operating domestically.

If China had a law saying that Google had to turn over anyone searching for info about the Tiananmen Square massacre, and that those people would be shot... Do you honestly think that Google has an obligation to do that!?

No they have no obligation, but then China has no obligation to let Google operate in their country if they don't comply. That just the game.

You are absolutely mad! An unjust rule is not one that should be followed, especially if the rule is in a country different than the company making the choice!

For the definition of unjust rule please see nearly every important legal or political decision in the US in the past 6 years. And if you want to flaunt the law of a country in which you are operating, be my guest. But do not be surprised when then deny you the right to operate there. AND I'm certain that you'll be doing all of that unjust-law-flaunting from the safety of your office here in the US, where there is no chance of you getting punished. Until of course you are sold out by a treaty from your loving government.

There is NO EXCUSE for the behaviour of these companies.

There is NO EXCUSE for MOST of the behavior of MOST companies or governments. Fixed that for you.

Re:The law (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696024)

No they have no obligation, but then China has no obligation to let Google operate in their country if they don't comply. That just the game.

Not only that, but assuming the requested records were either stored in or accessible from China, Chinese authorities would have every right to arrest employees of Google's subsidiary and charge them with the Chinese version of obstructing justice. It's a catch 22, you release the info and it leads to an arrest, or you hold on to the info and have your employees arrested. Add to that the fact that they'd also bar you from doing business in their country, and there's only one reasonable response.

Re:The law (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696084)

Hell it barely has a hold on US comapnaies operating domestically.

      No no no you've got it the wrong way around. Companies in the US are the ones who have got hold of the lawmakers...

Our schools are. (4, Insightful)

mustafap (452510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695809)


I just received a letter today from my daughters school (in the UK). Mandarin is going on the *mandatory* curriculum next year.

To quote the headmistress, "Students who speak both English and Chinese will be the future executives"

Although my industry, telecoms manufacturing, is being eroded by China, I'm in complete agreement with the move. If nothing else my daughter will experience a culture radically different to her own. In my day we learnt french, the langauge of a culture 30 miles away.

Interesting times ahead for the next generation.

Slightly off-topic but I thought I'd share it.

Re:Our schools are. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695937)

Wow. If I had a kid at a school where the headmistress only cared about creating perfect little executives I would get them the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

How dare she decide to only look after the "future executives" of the class? What about fostering the children's creativity or scientific knowledge instead?

It's a good thing to have a second language, but to suggest (as she implied) that business executives are somehow better than other people for society seems sadly misguided and will do little for our future.

It's Business-first (1)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695782)

It's and interesting delimma, but companies are going to take China's huge market over losing out over there. Everybody needs a search engine, if Google didn't censor their searches then they'd lose a potential 1 billion customers. Same with Microsoft and their MSN blogs.

America is not a democracy itself (1, Interesting)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695790)

The people who designed the American constitution said they did not want democracy for America because democracy was not good for stability and the interests of the wealthy. James madison, hamilton, Jay and Jefferson all wanted something less than democracy--they wanted a REPUBLIC.

James Madison, the father of our constitution, said this:
"Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property"

So China is now putting property over people. And that has ALWAYS been A-OK with those at the top in America!

Let's spread "freedom" to the entire world!

Re:America is not a democracy itself (1)

paulthomas (685756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695920)

I don't really care to find the attribution for this, but:

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

Just food for thought.

Re:America is not a democracy itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696046)

Yeah. What they did was they set off a revolution and then changed their government type. It would have been a lot faster if they built the right Wonders of the World.

Government types are a little more complicated than video games make out. The US is not a direct deomcracy. It's a representative democracy. Representatives are democratically elected by popular vote.

Nobody complains about censoring Nazis (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695793)

As a Jew, I would like to be able to read Mein Kampf because I need to understand what hatred looks like before it comes knocking on my door. If I were in Germany or France it would be illegal, and Google would hide that information from me.

Why is nobody complaining about how Google is giving in to censors? Because the ability to do business in France hinges on obeying the laws of the country, which means that Google wouldn't be allowed in France at all if Google did block things that were illegal there.

Google's choice is either block what China says to block, or the Chinese get no Google at all. Should we blockade China all together like we do Cuba just because the government is repressive? Why don't we blockade France while we're at it? I doubt many Americans would object.

Google can still be used as a tool for the social good in China, regardless of whatever specific pages are blocked, just like it is in France and Germany.

dom

Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695803)

Isn't it interesting that Capital Hill seems more concerned with companies giving into China's demands rather than dealing with the illegal wiretapping that is happening. I know they are seperate issues, and both very important, but lets stick to our fucking priorities.

YES. Of course! (1)

TechieHermit (944255) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695804)

And, why?

1. Because China is an enormous emerging market, with lots and lots of money tied up in it. If you don't go along to get along, your competitors will. Or the Chinese will build their own solution and they won't need you ANYWAY. Of course, if THAT happens, the Chinese people will probably be even worse off (so going along to get along is actually the lesser of two evils).

2. Because if you don't cooperate, China *could* send scary people with guns to talk to you personally. I'm not saying they *would*, just that they *could*. After all, they might just see it as a "national security" issue. And we all know how governments have traditionally dealt with those.

3. Because it's a foreign country, with laws you must obey, even if they're unlike the ones you're used to. And because if you DON'T obey them, any staff you have in-country might just get arrested and imprisoned (or worse). You're friends with those people, so you're naturally concerned about their welfare.

I've probably missed a bunch of reasons, but these are the ones that seem most obvious to me.

Re:YES. Of course! (1)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696098)

Yeah, it's going to be great when China starts threatening Google China if if Google proper doesn't do what they want...like censoring OUR search results or tapping Google Talk and Gmail in hopes of picking up some intelligence.

How about some historical context (1, Interesting)

miletus (552448) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695813)

Pontificating about corporate "morality" might benefit from some historical analysis, particularly regarding the relationship between corporations and dictatorship. German corporations like Krupp and I.G. Farben certainly bankrolled and profited from the Nazi dictatorship until their factories got burned down.

If we restrict ourselves to U.S. corporations, then we can recall the handsome profits Ford and ITT made in Nazi Germany, even when the war was going on. Or we can recall the role of IBM supplying their Hollerith technology [ibmandtheholocaust.com] to aid the holocaust. More recently, we can look at the role of corporations like ITT (again!) and Anaconda copper in pushing for the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, or United Fruit in Guatemala, etc.

War and dictatorship provide excellent opportunities for corporate profit. Just ask the board of Bechtel or Halliburton.

The only time this comes up is when the press/politicians talk about China or Cuba or Iran, etc. Hell, the same politicians who get on their high horse about prisoners in China used as slaves advocate exactly the same stuff here for American prisoners.

Where ever someone is being locked up, killed or tortured, someone else is making a profit. Take a look at the U.S. prison system if you don't believe me.

Re:How about some historical context (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695949)

"Hell, the same politicians who get on their high horse about prisoners in China used as slaves advocate exactly the same stuff here for American prisoners."

Really? So where do politicians in the United States talk in favor of organ harvesting, work camps, enprisonment of religious groups or slave labor?

FACT: Americans are niggers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14696076)

HTH.

Unified Front Supporting the Sullivan Principles (1, Troll)

reporter (666905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695817)

A good compromise is to extend the Sullivan Principles (SP) [mit.edu] to human rights in China. For years, American companies doing business in South Africa at the height of its apartheid perversion abided by the SP and treated African workers fairly, irrespective of the color of their skin. The key is that the American companies presented a united front abiding by principles of civil rights.

Western companies like Google, Microsoft, and the like could present a unified front in dealing with Beijing. They could agree to Western Principles (WP), an expanded version of the SP. Specifically, these companies agree to not assist the Chinese government, in any way, to abridge human rights. If Beijing retaliates by kicking Google out of China, then Beijing will expel all the other signatories to the WP. In this way, no Western company will gain an economic advantage over any other Western company.

How should we handle Taiwanese companies [geocities.com]? Long before Yahoo's indifference to human rights in China, Taiwanese companies have routinely ignored human rights in China. In fact, when Western governments and companies curtailed their investments in order to punish Beijing for the incident at Tienanmen Square in 1989, the Taiwanese actually accelerated investments into China, thwarting Western economic sanctions against Beijing.

If Western companies abided by WP but Taiwanese companies ignored WP and human rights, then the Taiwanese companies would enjoy an economic advantage (in China) over Western companies. How can we deal with this situation? We boycott all products manufactured by or sold by Taiwanese companies. The boycott will level the playing field.

Re:Unified Front Supporting the Sullivan Principle (2)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695857)

If Beijing retaliates by kicking Google out of China, then Beijing will expel all the other signatories to the WP. In this way, no Western company will gain an economic advantage over any other Western company.

Ever heard of globalization? If western companies choose to stand up against the PRC (just suppose, it'll never happen, but just suppose), then thousands of companies from India, south-east Asia and Whereveristan, and even China's own, will fill the void in no time flat. That's why no western company is silly enough to propose that.

Not to mention, the West doesn't really have moral lessons to give to China in more ways than one...

Right-wing campaign to change the subject (0, Troll)

DanTheLewis (742271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695827)

The real point is that instead of making hay over the executive's increasingly intrusive surveillance of ordinary Americans, the right wing is trying to change the subject to Google's relatively neutral move to enter China on the Communists' terms. Google is in the news as an advocate of privacy (for not turning over a full week of searches) and the right is trying to tarnish their image.

As evidence, note the Mighty Wurlitzer's campaign for divestment led by right-wing PJ Media and friends. Like Roger Simon's "I like to think that if I had any Google stock I'd be divesting it now". Or here. [typepad.com] Or Michelle "The case for interning American Muslims" Malkin. [michellemalkin.com]

Don't buy the head fake. Google waited a long time to enter the Chinese market. They didn't just do this for the money. Instead, get back to the NSA illegal wiretap scandal, the Hurricane Katrina scandal, the no-room-at-the-inn hotel evictions of Katrina victims, the Jack Abramoff scandal, the Valerie Plame scandal, the prewar Iraq intelligence scandal (still no Phase II report! senior intelligence official reports that the administration commissioned no strategic-level assessments in the run-up to war), the troop-fatality-body-armor scandal, the Iraq reconstruction money scandal... and many other scandals.

Re:Right-wing campaign to change the subject (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695991)

The real point is that instead of making hay over the executive's increasingly intrusive surveillance of ordinary Americans, the right wing is trying to change the subject to Google's relatively neutral move to enter China on the Communists' terms

It's not just the right-wing that's arguing this issue, and I in fact see many of the same people (libertarians) objecting both to Google's caving in to the commies, and to the current administration's moves to eliminated the fourth amendment. (Not to mention the previous administration's similar attempts.)

-jcr

Morality don't enter into it (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695829)

But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.

By law, corporations must consider only the shareholders. Nothing more. Any CEO who tells you his company is moral, cares about human rights, promotes democracy, or "does no evil", lies to you, because if his company's profits suffers even slightly from its moral stand, the shareholders can (and do) take actions against the execs to correct this.

Morality is a foreign concept to corporations, unless morality is good for the bottom line (like building up an image to sell more products to people who care). Period.

Re:Morality don't enter into it (2, Informative)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695879)

If a company includes ethical principles in its charter, it is legally allowed to consider things other than profits. This type of thing is rare, but it does happen.

There certainly moral and ethical corporations. But corporate morality and ehticality ends up getting framed in terms of greed. If a corporation pays its employees a good wage, it's assumed to get better or more loyal employees from this.

Mod Parent Up (1)

TLLOTS (827806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696061)

So often I've seen people on slashdot saying how inevitable it is that google will be evil since it has to at the end of the day make money for shareholders. While that is true, it does have to make money for shareholders, the fact that 'Do no evil' is in the google charter does ensure that it doesn't have to choose evil if given a choice between evil with profits or good with losses.

Reality sucks (1)

RhettLivingston (544140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695836)

At current growth rates, which appear to be sustainable, China will soon be the largest economy in the world in every measure. As long as we allow China to market in the US, no US company will have a chance to survive without the mass of China's market. If China launched a Google competitor targetting 1 billion potential customers that Google can't reach + all of Google's customers, Google's advertising revenue would plummet because Google's advertisers can no more survive without China than Google itself.

The reality here is that any effort by Google to fight the Chinese government on this would result in nothing more than Google's demise. And why should we expect Google to stand up to China when our own government has caved at every opportunity for over a decade?

The law. (2, Informative)

XMilkProject (935232) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695837)

Something to keep in mind, that was mentioned last time we had an article like this:

There are very strict and clear legal precedents about publicly traded companies. They are required by law to make all decisions in such a way that will maximize profit. I think people are forgetting that Google is not a private company, there is not one man making the business decisions.

They are responsible to millions of shareholders, a large board of directors, and many private investors.

If Google took actions (i.e. avoiding Chinese market) that significantly reduced profits, for no logical reason, they could easily be facing massive litigation from shareholders.

If i'm not horribly mistaken, I think the Dodge Car Company was started with money the Dodge brothers received from Ford Motor Company when they sued Ford for keeping their car prices low instead of maximizing profits. (Dodge brothers were investors in Ford). Maybe someone else can provide more detail about this.

Re:The law. (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695854)

Please provide a ref to said law.

Re:The law. (2, Informative)

XMilkProject (935232) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695912)

This is stolen from another post from a few weeks ago:

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation [wikipedia.org] :

Profit Maximization. In Anglo-American jurisdictions, for-profit corporations are generally required to serve the best interests of the shareholders, a rule that courts have interpreted to mean the maximization of share value, and thus profits. Corporate directors are prohibited by corporate law from sacrificing profits to serve some other interest, including such areas as environmental protection, or the improvement of the welfare of the community. For example, when Henry Ford cut dividends and reduced car prices in order to increase the number of people who could afford to buy his cars, his brother-in-law, Mr. Dodge, a shareholder, sued him for having harmed profitability: Dodge v. Ford Motor Company, 170 N.W 688 (Mich.S.C. 1919). Mr. Dodge succeeded and went on to form his own car company with the proceeds of the suit. Modern corporate law is settled and clear that corporate directors are only allowed to act in the best interests of the corporation, and that this means maximization of profits (see for example J.A. VanDuzer The Law of Partnerships and Corporations (Irwin Law: 2003, Toronto) at pp. 271-2). Corporations may be able to make charitable contributions to society, but only where this will enable profit maximization (e.g. if the public relations value of the contribution would boost profits more than any other potential use of the funds).

what about the law? (2, Informative)

theonlyholle (720311) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695875)

For me the more interesting question is, don't corporations have an obligation to obey the law in countries they operate in? How can anyone seriously demand of Google (or any other company) to break the law in China? They have the right to do business there, same as in my country, and when they do, they have to do it in a law abiding way. We may not like the law and if it hurts their business elsewhere, a company may make the decision not to do business in a certain country... but that's a question of business ethics. I don't think any government should be allowed to dictate where a company can do business.

Re:what about the law? (5, Insightful)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695999)

Total non-sequitur red-herringed cop-out, with a bit of straw man thrown in to keep the crows off.

You describe your question "Don't corporations have an obligation to obey the law in countries they operate in?" as an "interesting" one, when in fact it's rhetorical (which is quite the opposite). Now, for me it's an interesting question, because it brings up pointed questions about civil disobedience, the legitimacy of government, and the importance of the rule of law. For you, the question seems very settled: no.

The question isn't whether Google should be trying to break the law in foreign countries, but whether they should be willing to operate in countries where they have to do something morally repugnant (censoring) in order to stay on the fair side of that country's laws. I'm conflicted on the question. But there is the additional question of what sort of pressure these companies should be trying to put on the Chinese government. Should Google have held out for a better deal, or perhaps used their position to try and persuade the government that censorship is bad?

Like it or not, the government can and does dictate where its citizens do business. We can't trade with Cuba. We can't legally go to Thailand and have sex with eleven year old prostitutes. We have to pay tariffs on goods to and from many countries. The seventh grade civics version of this is that our Constitution empowers the government to decide how this country interacts with foreign countries. The only reason you can leave the country at all is because our government and the other governments of the world agreed on the rules.

Re:what about the law? (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696045)

>don't corporations have an obligation to obey the law in countries they operate in?

For me the more interesting question is; Why would a company operate in a countries which have laws that force them to do something that is unethical? (in this case, these laws would force Google to violate its own "Do no evil" principal.)

Democracy? (2)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695881)

'I was asked the question the other day, do U.S. corporations have the obligation to promote democracy

Remember this statement. It is very telling about current and future problems for the US. I think it explains a lot of the problems we are having in Iraq, and with Hamas.

To these politicians, democracy naturally means no censorship, and things such as freedom of the press. It will probably come as a great surprise to them when many of these democracies they helped promote elect very theocratic controlling governments that do things such as censor and control the press.

What about DOJ fishing expiditions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695886)

It appears that everybody except google was prepared to give in there. Is there some big difference between censorship and censorship that the DOJ would care to explain?

overthrowing despotism (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695908)

Perhaps the war on despotism can be fought not with soldiers but with corporations and money.

Outcome (1)

UPZ (947916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695910)

Google gave China a search engine that on legal paper was censorable, but their filters weren't working properly. Whether this was by accident or by intent, Chinese were able to go through Google to the so called "banned" material.

Fast foward 50 years (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14695914)

And the Chinese government will be holding hearings about Chinese companies doing business with the dictatorship established in the United States. And so the world turns...

Not politically correct, but... (1, Insightful)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695968)

I've been following this whole debate, and it really seems like no one understands that China is a soveriegn country that has its own laws and rules. They may not completely mesh with those of the western world, but it's not our job to decide if they're right. They have the absolute right to demand that search engines alter their results in order to do business in the country.

China knows that their huge population is too big for any company to ignore. They're ideally positioned to take over the tech world anyway, guven the population and the central ocntrol they have over things like education. A central government can plow money into any problem; if they decide that every single new graduate of eveey university must be a scientist or engineer, that will happen. It certainly isn't happening here.

The US thinking that we have the right to tell other countries what to do led to the Iraq war, and the Vietnam war, and the Korean war before that. It doesn't matter that China has a lousy human rights record. That's their decision. If the people don't like it, they'll find a way to revolt. There are plenty of examples of _that_ in history as well.

Pick Your Battles (1)

queenb**ch (446380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696017)

As an amateur military historian, I can tell you that the best strategy is to pick the battles you know you can win. There are a *LOT* of services out there, proxies and such, that are dedicated to allowing people who live under restrictive regimes to surf safely through "restricted" information. This is not a battle that Google can take on or win. Frankly, I put far more of the burden on our goverment than I do any private corporation. We should immediately ban all exports and all imports to/from China until there is immediate and permanent improvment in their human rights. If we don't want American companies complying with China's requests to repress its own people, we shouldn't be trading with them at all.

I wouldn't be surprised to see that many of the companies who "assist" repressive regimes also funnel money and/or information into the projects designed to circumvent those very controls. If anything, the internet has shown us that information, for all practical purposes, wants to be free. All that has done is create an arms race between those who seek information and those who wish to see it restricted. For every control that it is put up, a way to defeat it is devised quickly.

2 cents,

Queen B

Giving In? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695986)

Well, they want a piece of that pie.. And if they dont bend a little, they wont get any..

$ wins over morals any day.

I hate people some times (1, Flamebait)

GmAz (916505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14695993)

Get over it people! We are not China nor do we have any power to tell China what to do. If they want the censor the internet from their people, so be it. Let their people decide when enough is enough. Man, sometimes I wish freedom of speech didn't exist so morons like you would quit thinking everyone if the world needs to change to be more like the US.

Re:I hate people some times (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696028)

if the world needs to change to be more like the US.

      Hear hear! Especially the US. Oh but you'll never convince the brain-washed "USA # 1" citizens that perhaps SOME countries are more peaceful, cultured and civilized than theirs.

not black and white (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696003)

I was asked the question the other day, do U.S. corporations have the obligation to promote democracy? That's the wrong question. It would be great if they would promote democracy. But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship.

I think it's a much deeper philosophical question than that. It seems to me that Google has two choices: provide a censored search engine to China or provide no search engine at all. Now I can see arguments for both sides here, but I wouldn't say that either amounds to "promoting dictatorship".

This BBC article [bbc.co.uk] interviewing Chinese bloggers seems to agree: "The problem is not that Google is censoring its search service, it is that China doesn't have free speech." "There's too much Western media emphasis on internet censorship in China. Experienced bloggers know how to use proxy servers to get around the government firewall and access Google's main English language site." "I wish somebody would take the position of the typical Chinese internet user. If one is going to advocate a boycott, I would like the criteria to be the material improvement in the life of the typical Chinese internet user. I think talk of boycotting Google is a bad idea. People in China will not appreciate that because these are esoteric issues for them."

China doesn't need Google, (1)

liangzai (837960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696033)

China has Baidu. Google needs China, else M$ takes it. Or someone else.

China doesn't need Yahoo. China's got Taobao (AliBaba, which bought Yahoo). Yahoo needs China, Yahoo needs AliBaba.

China doesn't need iTunes Music Store. China's got Aigo Digital Music. The **AA needs China, else they're fucked in the ass by one billion people. Actually, they are fucked anyway.

China doesn't need you. YOU need China.

Web firms who want to be democratic missionaries in China need to go with the system. This is a long process, and waaaaaay too complicated to be understood by the average libertarian libertine-wanna-be slashdotter coding in mom and dad's basement.

Google is Evil (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696040)

Google is Evil when they help a repressive government jail or otherwise punish a person for use of the Internet in any fashion that is not illegal in the United States. There are no two-ways about it.

Most favored nation? (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696063)

Doesn't China still have "Most Favored Nation" trade status with the US? I guess the name was changed to "Normal Trade Relations" in 1998.

Seems to me that if the U.S. government considers the Chinese government to be oppressive, to whom the export of normal civilian technologies should be restricted, then they should say so and stop talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Its hard to fault Google for treating with the Chinese government in precisely the way our official trade stance with the Chinese says they should.

Now THIS is hypoctitical! (2, Insightful)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14696099)

"But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship."

Given the US support for dictatorships, monarchies and repressive regimes around the world for the last century - not to mention a repressive regime just installed in Iraq - this is hypocritical in the extreme.

The Net companies are in China to make money. Are they supposed to tell the Chinese government to fuck off if they asked to comply with the laws of that country? Are they supposed to write off millions, scores of millions, or hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in that country if the result of such a refusal is a yanking of their license to operate in that country?

"Morality" has nothing to do with it. Obviously any employee on the spot for such a situation has to make a personal decision as to whether he will comply with either the government's or management's request. That has nothing to do with the overall question of whether the company should accede to such requests.

At best, the only legitimate question is whether a company should decide to invest in such a country, given the possibility that some such situation could arise. And given that ANY company involved in China could face a similar situation, it's disingenuous to single out the Net companies.

I smell a rat. I smell an attempt to use the Net companies as a means of smearing China for the administration's own demonization purposes, irregardless of whatever China is responsible for.
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