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Creative Commons License photo credit: QiFei

Over the past day or so, a blog post posted on Google’s blog rocked the internet & the world. In it, Google gave it’s position on China relating to a systematic attack on known Chinese human right’s activists:-

“we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.”

Whilst it doesn’t point the finger at shady authorities directly, some of the language used (phrases such as “targetted attacked” thinly covered with “phishing scams & malware”) is contradictory enough to suggest Google knows damn well who caused the issue, and that group of  people are high in China’s government.

Google fought with it’s most powerful weapon – information – and simply stated that it was reviewing it’s feasability on how to conduct business in Google. A very diplomatic way to say that what has happened is bang out of order, and like any other business, if you treat any service, employee or user with abuse, the service is going to be withdrawn.

I’d love to believe that it was a moral move, but the cynic in me knows that with Google as the prime conduit for information exchange, it stands to profit greatly from as much information freely available as possible.

Nevertheless the news was met with trepidation in Wall St.: Google’s share price dropped around 1.1% with the news (source), which is odd, considering that when they announced that they were censoring the content in China in early 2006, nearly 15% was wiped off the company. From a financial standpoint, it appears that Google are damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

This leads me to believe that maybe this move was driven at the very least on protecting it’s property (Google doesn’t want to be seen to have leaky services),but more than likely on Google’s “Do No Evil” mantra. China went from just being naughty in Google’s eyes, to evil, and Google – who hoped that the human rights record in China was to improve – has given up helping.

Ironically Google’s withdrawl from China could be the one thing that brings about human right’s change, particularly if more western countries follow their lead. China is an expanding market, but Google are saying that it’s not worth exploiting at the expense of current markets, company morals & ethics.

The move could be a great move financially, as at the beginning of the recession, one phrase that was bounded around a lot was “Ethical Economies”, and how some respected financial analysts belived that a new form of capitalism where growth was achieved outside of exploitation would lift us out of recession. I’m not sure totally about that, but if Google are trying, then by god good on them.

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