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Google sells out
Scripps Howard News Service


January 27, 2006

Google sometimes seems like half my life. I start my days looking at Google News on the Internet, and often spend hours using the Google search engine to learn more about subjects I am going to write about. Little did I know I was dancing with the devil.

It's true, though. For the sake of this very rich company getting still richer, it has agreed to collaborate with China in subverting the promise of the Internet as an extraordinary means of liberation and in keeping the Chinese people in a state of abject subjugation.

More specifically, it is reported, Google will practice Chinese-style censorship, making sure that none of the 100 million Web surfers in China will be able to use Google to find anything by typing in such words as "democracy" or "human rights," or by trying to locate non-government information on such topics as Tibetan freedom, Taiwan independence, the Falun Gong religion or atrocities committed by their own officials.

In return for thus blocking entry to more Web sites than there probably are books in a dozen major libraries, as well as pulling the trigger on blogging and e-mail, Google gets a grin, a handshake and a have-at-it agreement from Chinese autocrats who had previously done their best to censor the search engine themselves.

Now Google will do financial battle in this major Internet market - second only to the United States - with Yahoo, Microsoft and Chinese firms as it tries to stack more money on top of the Everest-high pile it has already accumulated. As my columnist friend Thomas Lipscomb has reported, Google's stock value is in excess of $80 billion, more than that of the entire newspaper industry.

All of which means it's time to make excuses, and they have not been long in coming.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, as quoted in a Reuters news accounts, says he "came to the conclusion that more information is better, even if it is not as full as we would like to see." No longer will Google have to confront "the Great Firewall" of censorship erected by Chinese officials, he said.

"France and Germany require censorship for Nazi sites," he is also quoted as observing, "and the U.S. requires censorship based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. These various countries also have laws on child pornography."

Yes, the best can sometimes be enemy of the good, as Brin suggests, but the leaders of these high-tech companies have something to offer China that it needs, and by standing firm, by being tough, could conceivably have bent China more in the direction of responsible, civilized behavior as it moves ahead to superpower status.

Google - along with Yahoo and Microsoft - is abetting a crime against humanity while making it seem more or less OK.

The agreement to keep French and German Internet users from Nazi sites is a regrettable abridgement of free inquiry, but does not begin to compare to siding with some of the world's most devoted enemies of freedom in their iniquitous mission.

As for calling the protection of copyrighted movies and music censorship, that's blather, and to liken laws prohibiting child pornography to what the Chinese are doing is laughable.

Google's motto, as any number of news accounts and commentaries have noted, is, "Don't Be Evil." That's not exactly the world's highest standard. It's about like saying that a new mother's chief obligation is not to throw her baby out a second-story window. The startling fact is that Google now has done something evil, has tossed the baby out the window, and has put itself in a position of doing greater evil. Yahoo - which had earlier made Google-style compromises - says it was just going along with Chinese laws when it then helped identify a Chinese journalist who had written an e-mail about the Tiananmen Square revolt of 1989. For that deed, the journalist is spending 10 years in prison.

I am among those who have argued that the Internet could be the most powerful instrument since the printing press in disseminating information and ideas that will empower and free people, but what I left out of the calculation was the need for those in positions of corporate authority to cling to their integrity, no matter how much the almighty dollar tugs at them. I haven't given up hope. I still believe in the Internet. That belief would be strengthened if Google would become a respectable dancing partner by renouncing its China deal.


Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)

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