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Google Shareholders Reject Censorship Proposal

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the keeping-it-real dept.

Google 163

prostoalex writes "At the annual shareholder meeting, Google put forth for voting a proposal for the company not to engage in self-censorship, resist by all legal means the demands to censor information, inform the user in case their information was provided to the government, and generally not to store sensitive user data in the countries with below average free speech policies. As this proposal, if passed, would effectively mean the end of Google's China operations, the shareholders rejected the document at the recommendation of the Board of Directors."

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And there you have it (5, Insightful)

Deathbane27 (884594) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081063)

Google lost the ability to "do no evil" the minute they became a publicly traded company.

Re:And there you have it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081095)

You really expect any sane businessman to turn down an extra billion pair of eyes on their ads? They still have a company, an incredibly successful public trust, to run.

Re:And there you have it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081141)

an extra billion pair of eyes on their ads?
That's only equal to 500,000 normal eyes, once you allow for the slittiness factor.

Re:And there you have it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081145)

But no credibility.

Re:And there you have it (2, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081195)

Of course, you are aware that there's a difference between a public company and a public trust. Aren't you?

Re:And there you have it (3, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081443)

No, but then I tend to think of businessmen as immoral. I wouldn't expect a rapist to turn him/herself in either.

Re:And there you have it (1)

CheShACat (999169) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081473)

Directive 1: Serve the public trust Directive 2: Protect the Profit Margin Directive 3: Uphold the facade Dricetive 4:

Re:And there you have it (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082095)

Robocop, is that you???

Re:And there you have it (4, Interesting)

matt4077 (581118) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081167)

You might want to consider that this was actually proposed by one of their shareholders. That's a nice answer to all those "if a company forgoes profit for doing good, it's a crime against capitalism and shareholders" comments I regularly see on slashdot. However, this isn't really "doing evil" but rather "not committing do doing good". Google is still free to implement these measures, they are just not forced to do it. From a management perspective, it leaves more options on the table.

Re:And there you have it (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081295)

You might want to consider that this was actually proposed by one of their shareholders


Yeah. A small pension fund with a very few shares. They hardly represent the majority.

That's a nice answer to all those "if a company forgoes profit for doing good, it's a crime against capitalism and shareholders" comments I regularly see on slashdot.


Hmph. I usually see the opposite, but ...

However, this isn't really "doing evil" but rather "not committing do doing good". Google is still free to implement these measures, they are just not forced to do it. From a management perspective, it leaves more options on the table.


But Google won't implement these measures and we all know that. The bottom line is that China is too big a market for Google to ignore. Everyone has to remember that Google is nobody's hero. That's not the reason they exist -- they exist to make money. They reward creativity at Google because ultimately it's profitable to do so. They try to make themselves look less evil than other big companies (AOL, Microsoft, etc.) because they it's profitable to do so. I'm not saying that Google didn't start with admirable goals, but today they are a publicly-traded company and their raison d'etre is to create value for their shareholders. So everyone needs to stop putting companies -- particular Apple and Google -- on a pedestal and realize that your relationship with them as a consumer should be if you like their products, use them, if not, go elsewhere.

Re:And there you have it (4, Insightful)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081323)

You might want to consider that this was actually proposed by one of their shareholder

But you missed the point, in the end it didn't happen!. It is like Serghey saying that making a deal with China wasn't very nice, but they still kept the deal. Don't you see this is all a publicity stunt. The whole "do no evil" might have worked when Goolge was just 10 people in a garage. But tt doesn't apply anymore.

Yes, there might have been one altruistic shareholder, but it was 1 againts what? 1000? You might as well ignore that one individual as a statistical 'fluke'.

One of my friends invests in a consumer products company that does animal research. Many rabbits and hamsters are maimed, disfigured and practically tortured, to figure out if the products are "safe". My friend is against animal research (I am not, though), but yet he will not sell his stock in that company. Unfortunately, as sad as it is, $$$$ does make the world go round.

No matter what moral slogans you hear from "Google" or other companies, they only serve one purpose -- to imporove the public image -- to make more $$$$$. When it comes to "make more $$$" vs. "adhering to a moral principle", then "make more $$$$" wins.

The way I see it, a good test of moral character for a company (and for a person, for that matter) is if they would be willing to stand by their moral convictions at the expense of a significant loss in profit. Google has failed to do that...

Re:And there you have it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081753)

Yeah, but if google were still private, the measure would not have gone as far as it did, because it would not exist. The founders are in favor of aiding Chinese censorship.

The founders are still the majority shareholders. What the investors want doesn't mean squat.

Re:And there you have it (2, Interesting)

mgoren (73073) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081359)

Google is still free to implement these measures, they are just not forced to do it. From a management perspective, it leaves more options on the table.
I don't know much about the politics of public companies, but it seems to me that if Google goes ahead with a policy that was specifically voted down by shareholders, then the shareholders are likely to accuse them of not fulfilling their responsibility. Regardless, Google's Board of Directors opposed the proposal, so it doesn't seem likely they'd try to implement it anyways.

On the upside though, the fact that shareholders effectively voted for censorship sounds pretty bad... If a lot of people hear about that it could continue to put pressure on the company to pass a similar proposal in the future.

Re:And there you have it (5, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081469)

All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. So either Google is evil or they're aiding and abetting evil. Yes, this was tongue in cheek, but I've seen the distinction "google isn't doing evil, they're just not doing good" to be rather silly myself.

New motto (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082049)

"Google is still free to implement these measures, they are just not forced to do it. "

Actually, they probably are not free to do so. Sure, they could attempt to do so, but as soon as it effects the bottom line, the board of directors would squeal and the stock holders would force them to give up the practice in favor of their legally obligated profit.

For get "Do No Evil", as soon as they became publicly traded their motto changed to "Share Holders' Bitch"

-Rick

Re:And there you have it (5, Insightful)

erroneous (158367) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081209)

"Do No Evil" for Google now means saying "we don't like doing this" but then doing it anyway.

Re:And there you have it (2, Funny)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081383)

GOOGLE: "Do No Evil. Ever!" *(see note below).

...

*NOTE: Except when in conflict with making more money. Otherwise, yeah...whatever, we'll do no evil...

Re:And there you have it (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081717)

Yeah, but that note is attached to all US-based publicly traded companies.

Re:And there you have it (3, Insightful)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081945)

Exactly. It was our mistake to regard Google as some kind of entity with 'feelings' and moral convictions. In reality corporations are dumb money making machines (as far as their goal state is concerned). They always try to maximize the "make more $$$" function. If that means saying "do no evil" -- alright. If it means putting someone in jail over the censorship -- sure!. If there is a conflict between "making more $" and "do no evil" the issue gets sent to the PR and finance department that calculates risks associated with each and picks the choice that would ... surprise... makes more $$$!

Re:And there you have it (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081213)

I think that what the founder tried to do is something interesting in courageous with their IPO. If they kept it private, as long as they lived and spent their time managing the Google company they could have fight to make the "do no evil" motto hold true. Now they prefered to turn Google in a publicly traded company, that is, a beast of many heads. And now they are trying to tame it to follow the motto. They proved that "not doing evil" was the key of their success, they want the company as whole to understand it. I wish them good luck.

Re:And there you have it (2, Interesting)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081335)

Or you could take the more cynical view that they did the IPO so spread the blame for no longer following that motto.

"Sorry its not us, its our shareholders"

Retaining control themselves leaves them an easy target for the media if they go against their stated aims, spread out and run by votes its out of their hands.

Re:And there you have it (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082035)

You forget, they're still are "the majority of shareholders". So on one hand they say "do no evil" on the other they vote "to do evil". Actions speak much louder than words, that's what I believe.

I don't get it. (3, Interesting)

Otis2222222 (581406) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081223)

From TFA:

"Pulling out of China, shutting down Google.cn, is just not the right thing to do at this point," he said. "But that's exactly what this proposal would do."

Am I just naive in thinking that this proposal would have no effect on their Chinese operations? Let's say the Chinese government says "hey Google, play ball" and they say "no". What can the Chinese government do exactly? I'd just like to see a company, any company that has some pull, say "what are you going to do about it?" to the Chinese. Only when people doing business grow a backbone will things change and others follow suit. But this could just be wishful thinking. I just think it would be cool if someone actually stood up to them.

Re:I don't get it. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081259)

This IS China we are talking about, not the US where most corporations are held just as liable as paris hilton and can buy the legislature.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081289)

China has and would block google.* addresses.
This doesn't mean its citizens would be upset (they might mildly be, but they are used to these sort of things) it simply means they would just go and use yahoo or someone else. Google when it comes to towing the the line in terms of China is the least cooperative, Yahoo turns over IP addresses and such at Chinas request at the drop of a hat. Google figures just being available in China and being better in comparison to Yahoo is "being good".

Re:I don't get it. (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081517)

Google says it can't censor as it won't achieve anything and Yahoo will just take over their share of the search engine audience.

Yahoo says it can't censor as it won't achieve anything and MSN will just take over their share of the search engine audience.

MSN says it can't censor as it won't achieve anything and Google will just take over their share of the search engine audience.

See the problem with being willing to help a bad government? It means everyone else does it as well.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081927)

Because Baidu doesn't even exist right?

Re:I don't get it. (1)

trianglman (1024223) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082501)

That may be part of the business logic. But there is also the fact that, if forced, China will just block all the western search engines completely and set up their own China only portal. I'm almost surprised that they haven't already, but I guess that is only being held back because of hopes for better trade agreements with the US. If Google, Yahoo, and the rest stopped censoring, China itself would do it, and do it more forcefully and poorly. While I don't buy into the "Do no evil" mantra Google tries to feed us, they have successfully fought to protect some user privacy in China. It just can't do everything because then China won't let it do anything.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081483)

Only when people doing business grow a backbone will things change and others follow suit.

Let me guess, you were one of the ones who really fell for the "Do No Evil!" slogan...

I just think it would be cool if someone actually stood up to them.

If it will make more $$$ they'll stand up to China, if it will cost $$$$, it won't happen. Everything a company does is PR just to improve the public image, just to make more $$$$. Sorry to dissappoint...

Did you ever wonder how come big companies regularly funnel millions of dollars for sport's arenas, public park, halls, museums, big stupid and pointless sculptures called "art". Do you really think that the greedy CEOs just want to be altruistic and help others? If that would be the case, they money would go to local homeless shelters or to the starving and sick people of which there are plenty all around the world. And most of all, it would happen anonymously, without all the fanfare and publicity, because that is how I would expect someone who only want to "help" others to go about it.

Re:I don't get it. (5, Informative)

flooey (695860) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082231)

Am I just naive in thinking that this proposal would have no effect on their Chinese operations? Let's say the Chinese government says "hey Google, play ball" and they say "no". What can the Chinese government do exactly?

First, they can revoke the google.cn name. Country code names are subject to the regulation of the country they're associated with.

Next, they can eliminate all of Google's operations in China. Google has employees and datacenters in China that are completely subject to Chinese law and can be shut down by order of the government.

Third, they can block resolution of google.com and any other Google-related name around the world. This already happens periodically to google.com, that's why they have google.cn, but they could do it completely.

Countries are more than able to control what does and doesn't go on within their borders. China could easily make Google completely inaccessible to its residents.

Re:And there you have it (1)

Square Snow Man (985909) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081233)

You know why? Because `evil' is a matter of perspective.

This is not evil (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081401)

I'm failing how to see how this is evil.

Let's not kid ourselves. These proposals were aimed at doing the following:

  • Getting Google to stop serving China.

I think the misguided idea here is that Google can single-handedly pressure the Chinese government into giving free speech to its citizens. The rationale, I suppose, is that China wants Google so badly that they will shed off oppression just to have it.

If you believe this, you're fooling yourself. There's not a damn thing that Google can do to give people in China the right to free speech. If this proposal passed, the Chinese government would simply block Google from all of China, and by the time the Chinese people do hopefully have free speech someday, they'll all be using Yahoo and MSN instead of Google.

If you don't like the fact that the Chinese people don't have free speech, be mad at the right people, the people who are actually responsible for it: The Chinese government. Stop being so indignant with companies who are doing what they can with the rules they have to play with.

  • Force Google to fight things like the DMCA here in the United States

I'm all for Google fighting the DMCA. However, I am not in favor of forcing them to, which is exactly what this proposal would do. They should have the right to choose the battles they wish to fight. If I start my own business and decide that I (and my shareholders) want to fight for the prevention of animal cruelty and dedicate some of my profits towards that goal, that's noble. If an outside group decides that I (and my shareholders) should fight for the prevention of animal cruelty, and then we get raked over the coals because we decide that there are more worthwhile causes to take up, well, I wouldn't care so much.

Is repealing the DMCA a priority of mine? Yes. Do I call people (or companies) "evil" for not making it a priority of theirs? No.

And is anyone thinking that this is a double standard? Even in the United States, Google engages in proactive censorship. I'm sure there has been at least a few cases of national security information the government didn't want to get out being taken down, and we know that copyrighted videos have been pulled. In the case of China, this proposal says that Google is supposed to say, "To hell with it, we're going to do it anyway." In the case of the United States, though, Google is supposed to say, "We'll use legal means to resist."

  • Compel Google to break international laws.

As for telling people when Google has to disclose information about them, I actually would be in favor of such a proposal. It sounds like they are trying to keep Google for doing something like getting someone arrested [rsf.org] , and when you cross the line from censoring your own operations and ruining other people's lives, it's a different ballgame.

But keep in mind a couple of things. First of all, it's not like China is the only place this can happen. If I used Gmail to send out terrorist threats here in the U.S., our government would compel Google to turn over my personally identifiable information. Is that a bad thing? I don't know, but there's no practical way Google can say, "Okay, this is a harmless joke e-mail, so we'll wipe the user's data. This is Chinese free speech, so we'll wipe the user's data. Whoops, this is a terrorist threat, so we'll keep this around for a while." Even if they could, I'm not so sure that is such a good idea, either. Again, there's a double standard of impractically expecting Google to comply with U.S. law, but thumb its nose at international law.

Also, to my knowledge, Google hasn't turned over personally identifiable information to a government like China. Is there some reason to think that it has? Or that if it was ordered to, that Google wouldn't fight it as vigorously as possible? How do we know that it hasn't already happened, and unlike Yahoo, Google was successful? It seems to me that compared to other soulless bastard corporations, Google would be one of the most likely to actually care about stuff like that.

Re:This is not evil (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081603)

Getting Google to stop serving China
Funny, I thought it was about getting Google to stop aiding a government in censoring free speech.

I think the misguided idea here is that Google can single-handedly pressure the Chinese government into giving free speech to its citizens.
Well no, what it can do is pressure the Western search engine businesses to stop dealing with China. After all, how terrible would Yahoo look if it continued to aid the Chinese government in locking its citizenry away when Google had pulled out of the market? Then it could raise cultural awareness in America to progress to other business sectors who would then pull out and move their factories back to America (or some other country with a better human rights record). Then Congress would no longer be dependent on China for its manufacturing and could start to pressure on them.

the people who are actually responsible for it: The Chinese government
And the government does this with no help from companies, right? Google never helps the government in censoring its people, right? Google offers uncensored search engine results, right?

However, I am not in favor of forcing them to, which is exactly what this proposal would do.
They chose to go down this road when they created their IPO. If companies won't keep themselves to a high moral standard, then I wish luck on anyone that would. After all, becoming a publicly traded company is optional. If you can be profitable with your immoral choices without becoming publicly traded, all the best to you. I just hope that if your business choices become too unacceptable Congress will step in.

Compel Google to break international laws.
Can you point out the relevant quote please?

Re:This is not evil (3, Interesting)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081941)

what it can do is pressure the Western search engine businesses to stop dealing with China

Get a clue. China doesn't care. The top search engine in China is Baidu, not Google [searchenginejournal.com] . I don't think you understand that if Google and every other Western search engine simply went away in China, there would be no riots in the streets, no calls to action, nothing at all. China would simply keep censoring its citizens. There is nothing to be gained here. Nothing.

how terrible would Yahoo look if it continued to aid the Chinese government in locking its citizenry away when Google had pulled out of the market

Here's a little experiment: Go out on the street and ask ten people at random what they know about Yahoo's participation in Chinese censorship. I guarantee you that 9.9 out of those 10 people will say that they don't know anything at all. (That last person only counts as 0.1 because they're lying just to try to look smart.) So the real answer is, Yahoo wouldn't look terrible at all. People aren't going to feel better or worse about Yahoo because of something that Google does.

Then it could raise cultural awareness in America to progress to other business sectors who would then pull out and move their factories back to America... [blah, blah, blah]

You're dreaming, right? Don't you think that Americans already know that the government in China is oppressive? I mean, we tend to hide under rocks, but please, go out and ask ten more random people whether they think the Chinese government is oppressive. I guarantee you that 10 out of 10 of them will say, "Yes, I do." And to say that other businesses will care how people feel towards Google or Yahoo to the point of shutting themselves off to the largest market in the world... I change my mind, you're not dreaming. You're clearly on drugs.

And the government does this with no help from companies, right? Google never helps the government in censoring its people, right? Google offers uncensored search engine results, right?

Now you're just being silly. Yes, the Chinese government would do this with no help from companies. Google doesn't "help" the government do anything, that implies that it's in collusion with the government. Google simply abides by the laws it has to in order to provide service. Google does exactly the same thing here in the United States, where there are also laws on what it can and can't show.

I'll say it once again since you don't seem to get it, and I'll put it in obnoxious bold letters so maybe it will start to sink in: Google does not censor the Chinese people. The Chinese government censors the Chinese people.

Can you point out the relevant quote please?

Sure, here it is: "Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access." If a government requests for Google not to disclose that they've ordered it to turn over personally identifiable information, what is Google to do? On the one hand, they have a company policy that says they must. On the other, they have a legal obligation that says they can't. If they follow their company policy (as you would have them do), they've broken international law. If they don't, they look twice as bad for not only giving up personal information and not telling the person whose information it was, but they broke their own company policy, a policy expressly created to keep that from happening, in doing so. There's no way to win with such a policy.

Of course, there's also a technical problem that's been completely overlooked here. Let's say that the Chinese government orders Google to turn over the IP address of the person who posted such-and-such a comment on a Google Blogger site. Okay, the IP address is, say, 10.64.31.214 (yes, I know that's a bogus non-Internet address, this is an example), and that's a Chinese ISP address. The Chinese government has the power to go find out who's address that is. Google does not. I suspect that in most cases, Google would have absolutely no means whatsoever to clearly inform users when personally identifiable information has been disclosed about them. Once again, the policy would mean diddly.

Re:This is not evil (3, Insightful)

gilroy (155262) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082109)

Blockquoth the poster:

There is nothing to be gained here. Nothing.

You're wrong. There might be nothing material to be gained. Indeed, it would probably lead to a loss. But for some of us, at least, moral stature is another thing to be valued. Google would gain because it would cease odious practices -- they would be better.

The cynicism that none of this matters would be shocking if it weren't so prevalent. Shareholder-led business activism can lead to real and positive change. We knows this because it already has.

Re:This is not evil (0)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082497)

There might be nothing material to be gained. Indeed, it would probably lead to a loss. But for some of us, at least, moral stature is another thing to be valued.

No, there is nothing to be gained here, financial, material, or moral. That's my point. None of this matters. That's not cynicism, that's practicality.

If you think that abiding by Chinese laws makes Google "evil," then you're going to have a very, very, very hard time feeling good about any company. I can't think of a single big company that doesn't have some sort of dealings in China, and they all abide by Chinese law when doing so. (Well, as far as I can tell, and when they don't, I suspect that most of them are doing it to make more money, not as some sort of rebellion against censorship.)

You sound like one of these people who would lecture me about how evil it is that I have a nice little house out in the suburbs instead of donating every cent I earn above the poverty line to charities to feed third-world children. Just because Google and I aren't saints, just because we don't sacrifice our own well-being on some futile gesture, does not make us evil.

Like I said, if Google starts getting people arrested and ruining their lives, come back and talk to me. But for now, I still see Google as one of the better companies out there, not "evil."

Oh, and by the way, if you're really that concerned about government censorship, I would once again advise you to worry more about the U.S. government. It's not as bad as China, but unlike China, it has been heading in a seriously wrong direction these past several years. And if you must address Chinese government censorship, I assure you that there are much, much more effective ways to fight it than calling Google evil. You could, you know, write some letters to your Congress critters to try to get the U.S. government to put more pressure on China. It may not work either, but it has a hell of a lot more potential than slandering Google's reputation on Slashdot does.

Re:This is not evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19082105)

Is repealing the DMCA a priority of mine? Yes. Do I call people (or companies) "evil" for not making it a priority of theirs? No.
Is not killing people even when I could probably get away with it a priority of mine? Yes. Do I call people (or companies) "evil" for not making it a priority of theirs? Yes.

Re:And there you have it (3, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081493)

Google prior to being publicly traded likely would have behaved exactly the same. Larry, Sergei and Eric own enough class B shares between them to decide each and every shareholder vote.

Re:And there you have it (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081665)

Exactly. Google's not evil. It's the stockholders (including me and probably many of you (and apparently the board of directors)) that are evil. How did YOU vote?

What are you talking about? (3, Informative)

REggert (823158) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081711)

>>Google lost the ability to "do no evil" the minute they became a publicly traded company.

Your statement is, in fact, utter nonsense.

Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin together possess 66% of the voting power in the company, which is more than enough to shoot down any proposal that the directors (i.e., they) disagree with.

The result of this vote was a decision by the founders, and NOT by random shareholders.

Re:And there you have it (2, Interesting)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081849)

To be fair, much of any company's stock is owned by mutual funds and other investment vehicles. As a result, many of the votes come from parties that hold large blocks but are more interested in ROI more than anything else. So it's frequently hard to get much of anything passed by "shareholders" since many "shareholders" aren't individuals.

That being said, as a shareholder I voted for the proposal.

Do any other shareholders remember if Google's BOD recommended voting FOR or AGAINST the proposal? I think I vaguely remember them recommending voting AGAINST, but I don't remember for sure.

The good guys...oh wait (1)

C4st13v4n14 (1001121) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081067)

Money was at stake? The outcome was obvious!

Censored post (5, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081075)

This post has been censored by Slashdot for crimes against groupthink but is available for viewing in the google cache.

In other news, Google censors Youtube again (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081079)

They pulled some video clips from Youtube after Thailand threatened to sue them. More here [smh.com.au]

It's all about rights (3, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081089)

The right to profit trumps the rights of others to live without government oppression or intervention.

anti? (5, Insightful)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081107)

Shouldn't the title read anti-censorship proposal?

Re:anti? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081279)

but then how would the trolls know what to say?

Oh well. (2, Funny)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081131)

So, as common sense would suggest Doing No Evil can be a vague condition of employment, not of share ownership.

Maybe it was the employees who tipped the vote, thereby exercising their latent evilness in the only free arena they have - stock options!

No wonder (1)

mwissel (869864) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081133)

No wonder the majority voted to reject it. Shareholders have invested their own money and are therefore rather interested in gaining money than following moral laws.

And China sure is a big market for an IT-company with cheap professionals and lots of potential users. I guess a shareholder wouldn't like to neglect such an opportunity.

PR (2)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081137)

Nice PR stunt.

Boycott isn't necessarily best (4, Insightful)

tomhath (637240) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081143)

There are plenty of good ways to resist censorship and try to bring about change. Refusing to do business in the country is one way, but working within the system is probably more effective. I don't see that Google is wrong here; some other company more willing to go along with the government would take their place if they pull out.

That's the spirit! (sort of) (4, Insightful)

N3wsByt3 (758224) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081367)

"I don't see that Google is wrong here; some other company more willing to go along with the government would take their place if they pull out."

"I don't see where I'm wrong here," the hitman said, "if I don't do it, some other hitman would take my place if I pull out".

The argument that doing something unethical becomes ethical (or less unethical) because others would do it if you don't, is nonsensical.

Re:Boycott isn't necessarily best (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082007)

Refusing to do business in the country is one way, but working within the system is probably more effective. I don't see that Google is wrong here; some other company more willing to go along with the government would take their place if they pull out.

I watched a Charlie Rose show last night where he interviewed Warren Buffer for the hour. Interesting listening to the thoughts of one of the world's richest and most influential men, but what caught my ear was his answer to a question in regards to influencing policy in China. Berkshire Hathaway (Buffett's company) holds a multi-billion dollar stake in Petro China, and Petro China are the folks developing the oil in Sudan (read "Darfur" for those not inclined to keep up with the news).

The points he made included the following. Of the 33 largest companies in China, the Chinese government is the largest shareholder in 31 of of them. Berkshire Hathaway's investment, while large, is relatively insignificant by comparison, and then of only a single subsidiary of a single company. The oil from Sudan will be sold, if not to China,then to any one of a long list of willing and capable investors. Oil, being a fungible product sold on a world market, knows no boundaries, so none of us has control or even knowledge of where the gas in our gas tanks came from. If the development in Sudan slowed, stopped or otherwise became more expensive (by China walking away from its investment there, for example), the price of oil in China and the rest of the world could skyrocket, and the US economy, dependent on oil as it is, would get into Real Trouble real fast.

Now, all the above doesn't relate to free speech issues directly. It does, however, illustrate how complicated the Real World is. If one of the world's richest and most influential men can't influence the government of China when genocide is the subject at hand, and the rest of the world (governments included) are watching, my guess is that few others can. I'd also wager that none of us, whether sitting comfortably in our armchairs, at conference tables in board rooms, or protesting in the street, is able to comprehend fully the complexities of governing a country as large and varied as China. And there is little in US history that suggests that its leaders or its citizens will be capable of understanding very much outside its borders anytime soon.

Screw the Chinese (-1, Flamebait)

glrotate (300695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081149)

People get the government they deserve. If 1,000,000,000 chinese aren't concerned about their own basic civil liberties why should I?

Re:Screw the Chinese (3, Insightful)

mwissel (869864) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081187)

They simply don't miss something they never had. The vast majority of chinese people living in poverty simply won't get to know anything else but the status quo. The Chinese who have the money and influence to change something are satisfied enough with what they have, and don't want risk a live in jail or exil I guess..

Re:Screw the Chinese-There IS unrest in China (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081877)

I don't think the parent poster should be modded down, he points out a seemingly obvious fact that SHOULD be said, so it can be responded to!

There was a fascinating interview on BBC a couple weeks ago, wish I could find it, with a reporter in China who visited a town where 20,000 people had revolted at a new transportation tax of sorts. The reporter made the comment that there are something along the lines of 100-200 revolts PER DAY going on anywhere in China...

It is simply hard to grasp how large a country like China is. 20,000 people may sound like a lot, but in a country of over 1,000,000,000 that is absolute peanuts.

There IS civil unrest in China, and lots of it. Maybe that is why the government is so afraid and clamps down so hard on the flow of information. It will simply take an extreme amount/miracle/unification for any sort of actual change to occur, if it ever does. China is a country of 50 ethnicities, hundreds of languages...

Verbal Modding (1)

WaZiX (766733) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081283)

"-1 Redneck"

You don't choose the Socio-Demographic conditions you happen to be born in, you just got lucky.

Re:Screw the Chinese (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081307)

I will bear this in mind when you get taken for an extended waterboarding vacation in Gitmo.

Re:Screw the Chinese (1)

tefflox (853000) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081351)

This is the most ignorant comment I've heard in over three hours. By your logic Americans have the government they deserve. Do you appreciate being flipped the bird by a pinhead president who couldn't pronounce your username?

Re:Screw the Chinese (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081513)

Yes we ARE! He was elected twice. If people don't like it now then too bad, shouldn't have voted for him or wasted a vote on a green party candidate.

Re:Screw the Chinese (4, Insightful)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081465)

The parent is flamebait, huh? Not quite. If people aren't willing to help themselves, they certainly aren't worth the time for others to help. The power of the ruling class(es) means little when the numbers are against them. And this regurgitated "they don't know any better" is such a lame cop out. They may not know the exact extent of their oppression but I'm sure that more than enough of them feel that they are being oppressed.

Re:Screw the Chinese (1)

Tofystedeth (1076755) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081937)

True, but, how many of those people will gain anything by a revolt. Most of them will be just as poor as they were before. Which is not to say there is nothing they can do, or that they should not do something, but that it is understandable why they would not.

Re:Screw the Chinese (2, Interesting)

ni42 (268052) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081967)

Actually, based on what a couple of my friends encountered when they visited China, it's worse than that. A large number of them follow the dogma that the Chinese government knows best, and rabidly support the propaganda they're fed. In other words, they DO care, but they are (duh) misinformed (to put it mildly). They don't see themselves as oppressed any more than overprotected religious children see themselves as sheltered -- and it's not their fault. The whole *point* of censorship, after all, is to keep people from seeing things about reality that would shake up the current power structure.

(This isn't to say that Google has the power to change this; I don't think it can.)

Re:Screw the Chinese (4, Insightful)

bananaendian (928499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082421)

People get the government they deserve. If 1,000,000,000 chinese aren't concerned about their own basic civil liberties why should I?

I couldn't agree more. However when 10,000 of their most active members and leaders gather at around Tiananmen Square [wikipedia.org] and get shot dead and run over by tanks it tends to discourage the rest. The few exchange students and workers from China around here are timid and compliant. They don't even admit they know anything about those events. They are completely into the consumer culture and fashion. There is no life in them. Its like with the today's Irish. Hundreds of years of British oppression and brutality made sure that the only ones that are left are the descendants of the cowards, the collaborators and the incompetent. I am reminded of this whenever I visit the shithole Dublin has become.

The Tamk Man [pbs.org] was the last rebel...

Do evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081159)

They rejected this, it's very telling that they're trying to spin it:

      1. Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet-restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
      2. The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
      3. The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
      4. Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
      5. Users should be informed about the company's data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
      6. The company will document all cases where legally binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.

what will happen (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081191)

some homegrown search engine will grab the lion's share of searches in china, google will try to buy them and be rebuffed, and, with a dwindling small user base, google will suddenly announce a change of heart and pull out for censorship reasons

not business reasons!

pfffft right

Not only China (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081211)

It would also effectively mean pulling out of France and Germany. And now, if we consider a governmental censorship done through the hands of private corporations to be governmental censorship anyway, they should pull out of the United States, too - what was the name of the American journalist fired for ideologically incorrect depiction of the recent Iraqi war? I don't even bother to mention Russia here.

Censorship is evil, but it is an inevitable evil. A government that doesn't control the media in its country loses control of the masses to those who does; that's why there is and will always be censorship in all countries, installed either by the local government or by the United States, which seem to have bought lots of media in countries weak and small.

Headline seems totally wrong (5, Informative)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081217)

Surely 'Google's shareholders have rejected a NON-censorship proposal'?

Re:Headline seems totally wrong (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081591)

Even better: Google's management have rejected a non-censorship proposal... Larry Sergey and Eric control more than 51% of the votes with their class B shares. What they want, they get.

Kudos to them for keeping the stock price up with this decision. I guess they can keep buying overvalued properties like youtube and doubleclick. Somebody's got to keep bubble 2.0 running, eh?

Overly verbose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081231)

How many words does it take to say "nothing happened"?

No need to get out of China (4, Interesting)

pipatron (966506) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081235)

not to engage in self-censorship, resist by all legal means the demands to censor information, inform the user in case their information was provided to the government, and generally not to store sensitive user data in the countries with below average free speech policies. As this proposal, if passed, would effectively mean the end of Google's China operations

I fail to see how this would end their operations in china.

  • It's not self-censorship if they are forced by law to do it.
  • They can resist by all legal means to censor information, but if it's illegal to display a certain type of information, they are complying with the law.
  • As far as I know (I may be wrong here), Google need not submit any user information to the Chinese government.
  • ...nor do they need to store user data in China in order to operate there, at least no more than a temporary cache couldn't solve (where temporary means a couple of minutes for each user)

Or what did I miss?

China owns you US fuckers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081275)

China owns you US fuckers, lap it up bitches.

Do no evil Make more money. (1, Insightful)

Marbleless (640965) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081297)

Another champion shown to be false.

Nothing else need be said .... sadly :(

Re:Do no evil Make more money. (1)

Marbleless (640965) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081325)

Hmmm, interesting.

The subject should have been

"Do no evil {less than symbol} Make more money."

but /. took the {less than symbol} out of the title (and this the text) ..... grrrr.

Re:Do no evil Make more money. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081613)

If you want it to show up in text, use a character entity: <. You need to type &lt; to get that to show up and &amp;lt; to get what I just typed to show up(and so on).

Let's not be so quick to judge (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081553)

Right now times are tough at Google. Their profits aren't very high, and their position is so precarious they might go out of bussiness any day.

At this time they can't afford to refuse assisting the Chinese Communist Party with oppressing people. But one day, when they are doing better and profits are higher, then I'm absolutly positive they will stand up and Do No Evil.

Rock and a hard place (1)

Radioheadhead (611950) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081313)

Ya gotta feel for Google--talk about a tough choice!
  • stand by your principles, reject censorship, and kiss off about 1/4 of the world's population from using your service, or
  • remember your bank account, your kids' college fund, your retirement fund, swallow hard, and knuckle under
Grown-ups only need reply.

Re:Rock and a hard place (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081969)

remember your bank account, your kids' college fund, your retirement fund, swallow hard, and knuckle under

Yeah, because Google is just barely scraping by [yahoo.com] .

Re:Rock and a hard place (1)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082461)

* stand by your principles, reject censorship, and kiss off about 1/4 of the world's population from using your service, or
* remember your bank account, your kids' college fund, your retirement fund, swallow hard, and knuckle under


You left out option #3 - Stand by your principles, don't set up a physical point of presence in oppressive countries, do everything possible to help their citizens get to your service despite their governments' best efforts, and tell the oppressive governments to go pound sand.

Not quite as profitable as simply abandoning all principles, but gives the best (possible) of both worlds.

you FAIL it!? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081337)

prima doonas to where it was when operating systems, 800 w/512 Megs of

Of course it was... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081345)

Larry Page and Sergey Brin hold a majority stake in the company plus the structure of the share class prevents outside shareholders from really having a say in anything Google does.

Yay! (1)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081363)

Go fascism!

just like congress (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081379)

Its interesting how much this mirrors our own congress... when money is at stake, they vote against liberty and freedom.

Money is definitely the new god.

Google's new motto (1)

Ikoma Andy (41693) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081391)

Lose no profits!

Grandstanding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19081455)

This is just grandstanding.

"Do no evil" my ass.

Good for Google. (1)

Cinnamon Whirl (979637) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081459)

Google is here to make money, not sort out what you think is someone else's problem. And if the founders, shareholders, or employees want to support a cause, then that money is the best way to do it.

Democracy and the rights that are associated with it are all about self determination. As the name implies, self-determination is something you have to take for yourself - you cannot be given it. See Iraq. Hell, see the US. You took your country - you weren't given it, and it is now one of the strongest democracies on Earth.
Incidentally, as the article mentions China, there is an old saying that Mao was supposedly fond of:

Revolution can neither be imported nor exported
He was talking about Communism, of course, but I think it applies well to any change in Government.

Re:Good for Google. (3, Insightful)

gilroy (155262) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082037)

Oh, BS. This wasn't a proposal that Google hire gun-runners and try to overthrow the Chinese. It was a proposal that Google refrain from odious practices. Yes, it would cost them money. No, it wouldn't cause the Chinese Communists to wake up and say, "Oh, wait, we should allow free speech".

It would have been a principled stand. It would have been an example. And once Google was on board, attention could be turned to other companies that conduct odious operations in collusion with the Chinese government.

Don't think organized business activism can make a real difference in the world? Think that "someone else" will always just make up the difference and the system will not change? I'd suggest you talk to someone from South Africa...

only 10% or less of shares floated (4, Insightful)

cslarson (625649) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081527)

When Google went public only a small portion of outstanding shares were floated. Besides, don't they have a different share class structure. What I'm saying is that the IPO didn't cause this vote to turn out any different. The people who voted this resolution down are the same people who decided that their company would "do no evil". It is absolute bull shit for American companies to participate and aid China in their censorship efforts. There is absolutely no excuse.

Re:only 10% or less of shares floated (2, Insightful)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081625)

Yes, mod parent up - portraying this as a bunch of anonymous investors deciding what Google should do is inaccurate. Page, Brin, and the CEO have super-voting shares worth 10 times normal shares - they are in 100% control of Google.

"Do no evil, unless shareholders vote otherwise." (2, Insightful)

Ruvim (889012) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081547)

Here you go, google's new slogan at it's clearest.

Made in China (3, Interesting)

alexgieg (948359) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081871)

I wonder how many of the people here complaining about this do personally refuse purchasing any "Made in China" goods. Because, you know, all Chinese companies are partially owned by the Chinese government itself, and an awful number of them employ slave (yes, slave) labor.

I myself am pretty much against what the Chinese government does to their citizens, but when faced with the question "How do I extend my paycheck to cover the whole month?" it's very difficult to say "No!" to Chinese products. Maybe not all, but surely many Google shareholders face similar questions.

The only solution for these dilemmas would be for Western governments as a whole to take action. Individuals like you, me and, yes, Google shareholders, simply don't have the power to make anything happen.

What is evil, exactly? (2, Insightful)

TheCRAIGGERS (909877) | more than 7 years ago | (#19081899)

The whole "do no evil" / China thing is quickly becoming one of my pet peeves. There is no all-encompassing moral code.

If you go to another country, you abide by their rules or you face punishment. The belief that "our" way is better than China's way is the same kind of thinking that got the US in the Iraq war. (Oh, look how wretched they are! We most go liberate them!) All countries have PR campaigns that try to keep the populace going a certain way, China just goes further.

Yes, my stance is a slippery slope; so is the opposite way of thinking. The point is, YOU can't be sure that YOU are GOOD.

Google - American Traitor!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19082027)

Google is an American company and should uphold American ideals. Instead they are being subverted by foreign powers and greed to the detriment of this great country. I am personally sick of American companies that are so selfish they harm others in this world and actively work to degrade Americans and their beliefs. They now fall in with Haliburton, who has moved its headquarters to Dubai to avoid American laws and taxes, while still pretending to work for the good of America and people in general. These companies are working for their own good only and I am Greatly! disappointed in the situation.

Doug K.

Moving servers... (1)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082039)

and generally not to store sensitive user data in the countries with below average free speech policies.

Wouldn't that be a problem, since their primary headquarters is in the United States? They would have had to move a lot of servers to another country. That would cost a fortune.

Not just China... (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082155)

It would also mean pulling out of Germany, France, and a few other European countries that demand, and receive, anti-nazi censorship from Google.

Friendlier to China than US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19082157)

Doesn't anyone remember when everyone was extolling Google for being SO pious by not giving information to the US government about users when asked? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2006/01/19/AR2006011903331.html [washingtonpost.com]

And even then it was only to do the research to develop a proper child/porn/censorship act. We wonder why lawmakers think the internet is "tubes" and vote treacherously on internet copyright issues and digital management etc. and then we deny them the kind of information that can be used to be effective at all.

So does anyone else find it ironic that Google has no problems bending to the will of the Chinese government's demands to censor itself, but the US government ASKS for some anonymous data and it's all "Don't tread on me!"

Wonder what the Borg's real agenda is.

Yet again (1)

Wookietim (1092481) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082495)

Money wins over morals.

Forget China - They Censor in the U.S. (1)

George Johnston (1018968) | more than 7 years ago | (#19082535)

They wrote code to protect Bush from "miserable failure" - China isn't the only place they censor results that are embarassing to the ruling regime.
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