Thursday, January 14, 2010

You Go Google!

I applaud Google for taking a stand against censorship and intellectual property rights in China in light of the recent security breach at Google and 34 other Silicon Valley companies. Censorship by the Chinese government and a cyberattack on the g-mail accounts of human rights activists pushed Google to act. Personally, as an American citizen, I never really thought much about censorship and security on-line when I logged into Google. I had no idea that the Chinese government had placed restrictions on content that could be pulled up on Google’s search engines at its Chinese mainland site: Now I’m not so naive.
However, that has all changed now as—at the time of this writing—Google is operating freely and without any restriction on content in China. Within minutes of the information firewall imposed by the Chinese government going down, citizens of China were able to download previously hidden information and images on Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. How long will this freedom of information last in China? Not long I predict. 
In addition to stopping censorship on its search engines, Google is considering pulling out of China completely.  Will Google, and other American companies with Chinese interests, continue to sit back and let Communist China dictate restrictions on how an American company should operate? Doesn’t America stand for Freedom? That should apply to Internet freedom as well. 
I am hoping that change is possible and the lure of revenue will not draw Google back in. Censorship and cyberattacks are just plain wrong. Unfortunately, the Chinese citizens are the losers in this game. If Google stays the course and leaves China, the current free and open Google search engines vanish. If Google backs down and continues to censor information, the Chinese government will gain yet another victory and place further restrictions and limits on Internet searches in mainland China.
Google is blazing a path here. Western companies operating in China have long bent their own morals and rules to accommodate those of Communist China. Google stood up and said “NO!” 
There are some who will say it’s okay to change the operating rules for the Chinese government, and we should just work out some sort of a deal with China. This has undoubtably been going on for a long time already. But is it really possible to negotiate with an unyielding Communist government? Just ask those who witnessed, died in, or survived the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, which the Chinese government has continuously attempted to cover up. 
Freedom of information or censorship? Which would you choose?

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