Google takes a stand against China

 

Global web giant Google informed the world it had lost its patience with the Chinese government (without actually naming them) via Google Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond and his blog yesterday afternoon.

In an unprecedented stand against cyber attacks and censorship stating:

‘primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists’,

Google now threatens to walk away entirely from one of the biggest markets on the planet. Ok, they haven’t actually pulled out yet, but the blog statement alone will create shock waves in diplomatic relations with China for some time, and damage their own share price (it fell 1.9% almost immediately after the news hit).

The ethical dilemma Google now face is should they pull out of China at all? Do they really mean it or is it a bargaining position? Should Google stay on negotiated improved terms of transparency and reduced censorship, if possible at all, or should they retreat and focus on generating shareholder value in less treacherous territories? This story is going to be one hell of a rollercoaster. Google simply has to retain some presence in China to be that stick in the ground for others to adhere similar commercial and moral values to for any real lasting change to be effective. As for what that presence will eventually be, who knows?

The Chinese, on a diplomatic high after achieving the goal of ambushing Copenhagen will not like this one little bit, especially being informed by a lowly blog post! I can almost hear the fury from here.

You can’t and shouldn’t measure a company on any single action, but how many other companies are allegedly prepared to walk away from a huge chunk of revenue on a point of principle? That list is short, and for now, I’m impressed.

Google could help offset their financial losses by pressing for a live webcam during the forthcoming negotiations to demonstrate transparency? I’d pay to watch (as long as there were subtitles) and I’m sure millions of others would too!

SAP’s James Farrar also provides a good initial summary response via his ZD Net blog on sustainability and asks another very important question, will other search engine companies such as Yahoo and Bing follow suit ? Now there’s a test of embedded values. Could China be the setting for a values war? I’m off to start writing the book!

Whatever happens, I wholeheartedly applaud those at Google for taking a stand.

LATEST UPDATE:

Here’s @JulienGoy’s excellent summary of the story on day 1 on his Posterous page.

2 thoughts on “Google takes a stand against China

  1. Beth

    Fascinating really but as you said, will they really pull out of China? And yet, they are a big and powerful company. Imagine if they did force the issue and make some change.

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    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Beth

      I don’t think they should, but I believe they have the will to pull out. It may all be a game of brinksmanship with untold political discussions keeping Google execs, US and Chinese officials busy for a while. There is more to this story than we are being told I think. Google wouldn’t make such a bold statement without credible evidence to back up their actions. Many so-called experts are playing it down, suggesting that cyber attacks are common place etc, but this is China, not much happens without offical sanction. I’ve been told even this benign blog o’mine is blocked over there!

      Google have already made an impact just by highlighting the issue. The real game is just how far can they, and are they prepared to push?

      David

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