Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Google eyed

I can write this because I am able to.

I'm not under any restrictions to what I can write about, and I don't need to censor myself because I have to fear my blog being blocked for some 'unknown reason'. I need not fear for that 'knock on the door' in the middle of the night, and I need not dread my computer being taken away and taken apart by the police. I live in a democracy, a free country where the freedom of information and freedom of speech prevails over the government's ability and right to dictate what I want to hear and say.

For that I am grateful.

But for billions of people in the world, the world looks different and distorted. And there's more people who feed on such a twisted view of the world in China than any where else. In other words, to many Falun Gong is an evil cult, Taiwan is a part of China, Japan is an imperialist nation with imperialist ambitions (as is the United States), Tiananmen is just a place where happy tourists gather for photo-ops... So when the giant .com companies Yahoo, Google decided to cooperate with the Chinese government, it's no surprise there's outrage.

Of course, there's arguement to the contrary, one being that the companies are simply complying with local laws, or that perhaps it's best to allow the millions of Chinese internet users more choice, for it's best to engage rather than antagonise China. To back this up, it is believed that the presence of multinational companies and increasing economic investment in China will improve conditions for political and civil liberties.

This is nothing but a myth. Since China 'opened up' to the world and began to lure companies in, its human rights situation has anything but improved. And today it was exposed that China used information provided by Yahoo-China to arrest dissidents. It just shows, play with a fierce dog and you will get bitten. And even deep regret cannot undo the stain to the company's reputation as committed to " promote the principles of freedom of speech and expression".

Go Student for a Free Tibet campaign to boycott the search engine on Valentine's day. Must admit, convenient as Google is, I'm disappointed that it's cooperating with the Chinese government. So much for the company motto: "DON'T BE EVIL!"

In Time this week, the coverpage/story happens to be about Google's success. One of the people interviewed at Google offers the rather weak argument that
"There's a subtext to 'Don't be evil', that's 'Don't be illegal'."
So Google, in its defence is simply abiding by local laws...even if those laws contravene the basic unviversal right to freedom of information, and protection of privacy.

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