Sunday, January 28, 2007

China and Google's "admittance"

"China censorship damaged us, Google founders admit" reads the headline of this article. Co-founder Sergey Brin demonstrates why Google's "no evil" philosophy has no meaning and instead exists to manufacture a profitable but romantic image in the minds of Internet users.

Note to Sergey: With such censorship comes a moral wrong. Chinese citizens don't care that,
"On a business level, that decision to censor... was a net negative."
Morality is not a matter of the bottom line. Are we to shed a tear that,
"the company had suffered because of the damage to its reputation"
or because the rights of human beings have been violated? It is disturbing to hear you say,
"perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense."
"Perhaps now"? This implies that principles are playthings. Playthings to be used when profitable yet ignored when inconvenient. There is no restitution with this admittance. This admittance is a reminder that when it comes to the search for, and accessibility of information, Google is still committed to place profit over people.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, it says that Google was "forced" to do this. Who forced them? They had a choice.

Blogger Gnuosphere said...

That's both true and false at the same time. Ultimately, Google could have chosen not to censor. However, Google is a for-profit corporation. This means that by law, Google is mandated to seek out the maximization of shareholder profit. If Sergey and company do not do this, they can be held liable for not doing their job as dictated by law. So looking at it from that perspective, Sergey certainly has a right to say Google was "forced" or "had to" make the decision to play by China's rules. After all, the question of whether or not this was the best long-term financial decision is up in the air. But if Sergey was to speak only for Sergey and make the claim that he personally was "forced" to do this, such a statement would be disingenuous and an obvious attempt at dodging moral responsibility regardless of the fact that he works for Google.

The same kind of thing happens with Microsoft all the time. Steve Ballmer has said on numerous occasions that his duty is to the shareholders of Microsoft stock. Of course, in a moral sense this is absurd. But in a legal sense, he is absolutely correct. He can be held liable if he doesn't do what it takes to maximize profit.

A great book on this is The Corporation. In it are numerous examples of morally outrageous decisions based purely on the pursuit of profit without regard to externalities. There is a documentary as well if you're not into books.


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