The mega search engine Google has been blocked thanks to an alteration in how firewalls connect to the internet in China. What is being called the Great Firewall of China is one of the most comprehensive blocks in the world, keeping the majority of the internet censored in order to keep from ‘indecent’ and ‘inflammatory’ materials from reaching the Chinese public.
Originally, when Google signed an agreement with China, it originally agreed without commitment to go along with the censorship laws. Google spokesmen say this was in order to provide any service as opposed to none at all, and thus some limited censorship was allowed. It did, however, stop cooperating with China’s strict censorship laws shortly after a series of attacks on Google’s email system. The cyber-attacks are still being investigated, but Google spokesmen deny that there is a direct relationship between the two events, saying the move against censorship came in the interest of freedom of speech. To Google’s credit, they have consistently acted in the past as interested in freedom of speech internationally. The company’s informal slogan “Don’t be evil,” while notably unusual seems to be in the consciousness of those in decision making capacity in this particular case.
Although this may not be as much an issue of good versus evil as much as an issue of conflicting ideologies between governmental and corporate bodies working in a global market. Google clearly is flexing its muscles as it ascends in value and its market capital exceeds 150 billion dollars, and keeping in mind its philosophical tenant #8 “The Need for Information Crosses All Borders.” The company was founded in California in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and has been making consistent decisions to make information as universally possible to access ever since. Of course in order to make some information accessible to the world, it had to make some compromises. The controversial deal with China was just one of several where Google agreed to share as much information as possible rather than be blocked out entirely.
Mainland China has as a result, suspended many features of the search engine and even blocked out its main search engine results. This is thought partially to be a glitch, but could also be a direct message from the Chinese government that Google should play by its rules or suffer a considerable loss in revenues. Human rights advocates, on the other hand, are giving Google high praise for its bold move to ensure freedom of speech throughout the world.
But there’s another and perhaps more disturbing conflict arising from this. Corporate and government interests have rarely seen a time of purely coinciding values and motivations. In fact the notion of a powerful corporation almost directly rebels with government, as they are competing for money and influence. And with competition there is always the threat of conflict. As such, this feud between Google and China’s values is an understandable and seemingly almost inevitable one as the information industry continues to emerge across national and cultural borders.