When search titan Google decided to censor its search results to gain access to the exploding Chinese web market, it attracted plenty of criticism. And with good reason. For a company with the famous slogan dictating us and them not to be evil, it’s hard to justify aiding and abetting a dictatorial oligarchy which relies on the kind of propaganda that would give mass media brainwashing of Stalin’s reign in the USSR a run for its money, all in the name of profit and access. But recently, Google had second thoughts, announcing that it wants to stop censoring search results for Chinese users and is considering leaving the nation altogether if it can’t, after a cyber attack tried to breach the Gmail accounts of civil rights activists and steal important personal data.
Now, we can certainly debate whether Google should’ve even entered a market when the government will use any excuse to justify censorship and rules with an iron fist, complete with giant spikes on the knuckle joints. In a very cold and logical macro view, we could argue that a corporation can’t change the law in China and since it’s one of the hottest markets in the world, every company that can carve out a niche in its economy should try to do so. However, for a search company to become complicit in enforcing government oppression to keep its permission to stay in business in a country where political tempers flare and there’s a real struggle between people fighting for the right to free speech and tyrants who want to silence it so they can stay in power, there’s bound to be trouble. And in this case, it seems that China’s much rumored cyber army were paid to get intel on civil rights activists and assaulted Google’s system to try and read their e-mails.
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As you can probably imagine, Google doesn’t want to become the digital battleground in Chinese politics and so they’re trying to give the government an ultimatum. Stop censoring us and leave us alone or we leave. Will the power players in the Party give in to the company’s demands? So far, they’re staying resolute and trotting out the old, hackneyed spiel about the necessity of web censorship for “people’s safety”…
Peoples Daily, citing a Cabinet official’s comments in November, said companies must help the government keep the Internet safe and fight online pornography and cyberattacks.
Web companies must abide by “propaganda discipline,” the official, Wang Chen, was quoted as saying. “Companies have to increase the ability of Internet media to guide public opinion in order to uphold Internet safety.”
Right. Of course. Because we all know that searching for things like histories of democratic governments can only lead to spreading porn and hacking into the defense ministry’s website. It’s all for the people’s safety, just like news of crime, corruption and police brutality cleansed from the headlines of websites and newspapers. I mean if people found out that bad things are happening in China, they might get worried and we all know that stress is bad for the health. See, it’s just the government’s official policy of almost parental care for its citizens who don’t even have to inconvenience themselves with the trouble of choosing their own government with the kinds of messy and disharmonious elections you see in the West. This is why they’re probably not interested in giving Google free reign and setting a dangerous precedent of telling people the truth instead of monitored, carefully controlled propaganda. Homegrown search engines like Baidu will play ball and do what they’re told. Why bother with those free spirited, disrespectful Westerners and their babbling about free speech?
[ evil computer illustration by Lee Siyun ]
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