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