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Google: Censorship Is A Trade Barrier

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There’s something about this topic that is unsettling – the deal seems nearly devilish, beneficial and somewhat horrifying at the same time. Google’s latest plea to the US and EU governments to help fight censorship centers on the economics, not the political morality, of censorship.

In essence, Google Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Andrew McLaughlin argues: censorship is interfering with our ability to make money. That’s paraphrasing, of course, but the wording is not dissimilar to how you’d follow the phrase think of it this way…

According to the Associated Press, McLaughlin, taking Google’s cause to the US Trade Representative’s office, summed it up this way:

"It’s fair to say that censorship is the No. 1 barrier to trade that we face."

And they bought it. USTR spokeswoman said, "If censorship regimes create barriers to trade in violation of international trade rules, the USTR would get involved."

Oh no. Not the USTR! Red China must be shaking in its child-labor-created sneakers.

On the Google Public Policy Blog, McLaughlin expands on the "fairly quiet discussions [Google's] been having with various parts of the US government." 

The points of these discussions were to highlight 1) the information industry is a vital part of the US economy 2) blocking information makes censorship a trade barrier 3) that government blocks against YouTube affect Google as a non-tariff trade barrier and 4) Google’s desire that the US government use its trade negotiation powers to eradicate censorship, since censorship is a barrier to US trade.

Any method to eradicate censorship is good. It seems rather surreal though, at least the way McLaughlin frames it, that the fastest way to a politicians heart is through his wallet (even if we knew that already). Suddenly, the folks in Washington are noticing there’s a problem?

"The good news," he writes, "is that the uniform reaction to this argument in Washington has been the nodding of heads, typically coupled with a request to hear more about how this can practically be done."

Suppose it shouldn’t be so surprising that it takes an economic argument to make a point in Washington.

Google: Censorship Is A Trade Barrier
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