Google in China (25 Jan 2006)
So Google have launched in China and are censoring results. This has made a lot of people very unhappy (we had protestors outside today voicing that unhappyness)
Just to be clear, Google doesn't have an option of running an uncensored version in China - it's censored or nothing. It's only a company and, as such, has to follow the laws of the countries it operates in. But Google could have taken a stand and refused to join in. I guess that's what all those people wanted us to do. But here's the thing...
I really don't think it matters
Years ago there was a great hope that the introduction of the Internet into China would open the eyes of all the people. Once they knew about the opression under which they toiled, how could they stand it? Well, they did. Turns out that people will put it with it. The Great Firewall of China isn't perfect; it's main function is just to remind people that Big Brother is watching. These people know the oppression under which they toil and accept it. We believed too much in the power of the Internet and we were wrong.
The driving force for change in China is capitalism, not free expression. All the recent improvements in the lot of the newly rich chinese can be traced to good old fashioned material want. And change in the future is going to come when the bulk of the, still very poor, people start to wake up to this fact. It's happening already and it's only going to get better.
It might have been nice to make a stand for freedom in this case - but pointless. I really hope Google would never turn someone in like Yahoo did, that's just plain bad, but so far it's not worth the fuss.