Essay #1 - Analyzing Google's censorship in China
Should the government have the power to censor search engine results? Is this a violation of the country's rights? More importantly, is it the duty of the search engine to defend the rights of the people and not restrict their results? And, if a company should choose to allow a government to censor their search results, is it ethically justifiable?
Google, an online search engine leader, was faced with a decision of whether to enter the search engine market in China during 2006. Google's intent was to provide the Chinese people with a "more widely available and easier to use" search engine, but this may not be the only reason. China has the greatest number of people and thus has the greatest number of possible searchers. They are also said to become an "internet gold mine" over the next decade, greatly increasing their already 100 million web visitors. Google would like to seize this opportunity as it would add to their ever-growing business structure.
China's government requires that all search engines be censored within their jurisdiction including Baidu.com, a Beijing-based and leading search engine in China that Google owns 2.6% stake. An example of such content that Chinese's policies restrict is search results containing the
1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the independence of Taiwan.
Restricting search engine results directly conflicts with Google’s business motto “Do no evil,” but they believe it is a viable sacrifice for the return they will receive. The biggest issue is that this will actually restrict the freedom of speech and repress Chinese citizens. It is important to note that Google currently censors results in Germany and France that pertain to Nazi paraphernalia as well.
Several organizations including “Reporters Without Borders” is extremely concerned on the impact this will have, and the message that it will send to the stakeholders in Google as well as the millions and millions of searchers worldwide. Google intends to alert its' searchers when content has been restricted, but is this enough?
So what are the ethical dilemmas? There are two different viewpoints to look at when trying to analyze the ethical decisions Google needs to make in this situation. First, there is the utilitarian viewpoint, which essentially says that the right decision is the decision that brings the greatest happiness to the greatest amount of people. The other viewpoint is the deontological. It states that the right decision is the decision that was made out of good will, the only action that is morally right, and produces good consequences. In the following pages, you will find an analysis of each of these types of ethics and the stakeholders involved in each. Several issues will also arise in doing so, both technical and moral.
Below you will find a list of the stakeholders that have a stake in Google's decision to allow the
Chinese government to censor its’ search engine results. The results of the decision can be beneficial or traumatic, or possibly both for any of the stakeholders.
Other Chinese Search Engines
The greatest technical issue is the privacy of Google users. As most know, Google provides several services including Gmail, a web-based email client. If a user is signed into their Gmail while performing a Google search, data is recorded on what they searched and other various types of data. China's government is asking for censorship on searches, but will it stop there?
Will they request more information from Google in the future? Would Google need to provide the Chinese government with access to an individuals’ Gmail account? Yahoo was required to do this the year before by the Chinese government. They turned over a