ArchiveFebruary 17, 2006

Google & China


(a) First, our business commitment to satisfy the interests of users, and by doing so to build a leading company in a highly competitive industry; and

(b) Second, our policy conviction that expanding access to information to anyone who wants it will make our world a better, more informed, and freer place.

Some governments impose restrictions that make our mission difficult to achieve, and this is what we have encountered in China. In such a situation, we have to add to the balance a third fundamental commitment:

(c) Be responsive to local conditions.

Google’s reaction to China.

Some are very concerned about the decision to self-censor their search results in China. (On the other hand, Google resisted a US government subpoena recently, which got the EFF’s applause.)

Google used to be the good kid on the block: straightforward, simple principles, user-oriented, and, well: the best search results ever seen. That in mind, self-censorship under pressure from an authoritarian regime seems like a pretty nasty decision.

But this is a tricky one. (And I’m not talking about the usual how-to-deal-with-China paranoia or the whole how-to-find-a-balance-between-business-and-principles thing.) All business interests apart, this is about the question “What’s better for Chinese users?” Censored Google search, or no Google at all? I just hope they made the right decision. Or at least not the wrong one.