Brin Defends Google China

    January 26, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

While taking a break from the activities at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Google co-founder Sergey Brin talked about and the growing kerfuffle over Google’s acquiescence to China’s censorship demands.

Brin Defends Google China
In Defense Of Google China

Have Google and its American-based search competitors paid too high a price for entry into the Chinese market? Can their presence truly effect change by virtue of being available in China? Tell us more at WebProWorld.

Fortune Magazine’s David Kirkpatrick managed to grab a few minutes of Brin’s time in Davos, Switzerland, site of the World Economic Forum Summit. The conversation quickly turned to Google China, where Google’s acceptance of Chinese government controls on what citizens can and cannot search has drawn comments and complaints from a range of people spanning from bloggers to Congressional representatives.

Brin said he believed Google is “doing the right thing” with their work in China:

“We ultimately made a difficult decision, but we felt that by participating there, and making our services more available, even if not to the 100 percent that we ideally would like, that it will be better for Chinese Web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it.”

He also noted how Google blocks content in the US when it receives a DMCA request; the search engine also blocks queries for Nazi-related topics in Germany and France. That led to this exchange between Brin and Kirkpatrick:

Brin: …we also by the way have to do similar things in the U.S. and Germany. We also have to block certain material based on law. The U.S., child pornography, for example, and also DMCA

Fortune: You actually actively block child pornography?

Brin: No, but if we got a specific government request. If a third party makes a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) claim that another party is violating copyright, and that party is not able to counter, then we are obligated to block that.

In France and Germany there are Nazi material laws. One thing we do, and which we are implementing in China as well, is that if there’s any kind of material blocked by local regulations we put a message to that effect at the bottom of the search engine. “Local regulations prevent us from showing all the results.” And we’re doing that in China also, and that makes us transparent.

Falun Gong practitioners and human rights activists will likely be surprised to find their work lumped in with kiddie porn and Nazism. Topics like “Falun Gong” and “human rights” get blocked routinely in China.

Kirkpatrick then obtained an opposing viewpoint to Brin’s position from Human Rights Watch leader Ken Ross, and noted his opinion on the subject:

I’m sure Google justifies this by saying it’s just a couple of search words that people can’t get to, but it’s very difficult for Google to do what they just did and avoid the slippery slope. The next thing they’ll do is ask them to tell them who is searching for “Taiwan” or “independence” or “human rights.” And then it’s going to find itself in the position of turning over the names of dissidents or simply of inquisitive individuals, for imprisonment.

Ross suggested that the search engines could face down China over censorship if they band together. That isn’t going to happen, as none of the big search engines want to yield the promise of multi-billion dollar profits from the fast-growing Internet user base in China to homegrown efforts like Baidu, who do not have a problem following government dictates on content and search.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.