Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Doing the Right Thing: Google Considers Pulling Out of China

Both remarkable and refreshing - Google's new approach to China (GoogleBlog):

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.
Google has been under increasing political pressure elsewhere and while this will undoubtedly also help with those public relations efforts, it's a bold move that I suspect users will reward. The post implies they have proof that the Chinese Government has been enabling hackers who have not only been attacking their corporate servers but have been attempting to infiltrate gmail accounts linked to human rights activists.

I suspect this will only be a short term loss restricted to China on this move. When a "glastnost" comes to China, as it did Russia, if they're clever about marketing, using Google could ultimately be a symbol of new found freedoms. The fact that the Chinese government has made it difficult for them to operate, given competitors an operational advantage and enabled hackers that attack them and other firms, must make it an easier risk to take.

While I imagine they've weighed the business calculus on this, being the idealist I am, I want to believe, and I think there's a good probability that doing the right thing here, will mean greater profits both now and in the future.

Update: A more cynical viewpoint - It's more about business than thwarting evil (TechCrunch)

Update #2: More here from Imagethief, a PR expert based in China.

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