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Jason Holliston
 
Tuesday, September 28, 2004  
American Companies and Totalitarian States

For those that don't know, I work in the software industry. Specifically, I work on a software product that helps Webmasters get their Websites better rankings in the search engines. I know, incredibly exciting stuff, and I'm sure you want me to go on for paragraphs about the wonders of search engine optimization. But no. Not today, and likely not ever. It does explain why I read a newsletter from Pandia Search World regularly, however.

I read yesterday, on Pandia, that Google is censoring blocked sites from their news search on their Chinese site. Cisco helped build the Great Firewall of China that blocks these sites, and now Google is making sure that Chinese searching on their news site do not see the blocked links. Here's Pandia's reasoning on why this is a bad, bad idea:

It could be argued -- as Google seems to do -- that including these sites would mean no difference to Chinese web surfers. The Government controls the internet service providers and can easily block the banned sites.

This is true. But by making the listings visible, Google will also make the censorship visible, demasking the Chinese oppression. By standing up for political freedom, Google will tell the Chinese government that it does not condone this kind of interference. Moreover, these listings may also help the more Internet savvy Chinese users find the information by other means.


That's about right, I think. There's not much American companies can do to topple the Chinese government directly (that's probably up for the Chinese people themselves to accomplish, which I believe will happen someday), they certainly don't have to help keep them in power. That's exactly what they're doing, and for nothing but cold cash. I understand that American culture and business ideas can go a long way to changing a country, as it certainly did in assisting the end of the Soviet empire. We should be selling computers, hamburgers, music, and autos over there. We don't have to actively assist in outright political censorship, however. American corporations are still American, and should have those inherent values. We should hold Google, Cisco, and any other American company that works against basic freedom for a better bottom line accountable.

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