Jeff Jarvis is well-known for his love of all-things Google, but his latest Guardian column is probably his most hype-laden yet. I don’t think Jeff is responsible for the headline, but it sums up his position quite well: “Google is defending citizens of the net“.
The issue, of course, is China and Google’s decision to shift its search servers accessible in the mainland to Hong Kong (note for the pedantic: Hong Kong is, of course, part of China but has a somewhat-distanced relationship with regard to censorship.)
Jeff’s key paragraph is probably this:
“Next to no one has been willing to stand up to China’s suppression of speech online. Other companies – Yahoo, Cisco – have handed over information that led to the imprisonment of dissidents, or have helped China build its Great Firewall. Many more, from News Corp to the New York Times Company, have coveted the Chinese market and overlooked the regime’s tyranny to do business there.”
There’s only one problem with Jeff’s perspective: Google isn’t ceasing to do business in China. From a report in the very same newspaper:
“The company [Google] now believes it has found a legal way out, and said it intended to maintain its research, development and advertising sales business in China…”
So Google, to use Jeff’s phrase, is continuing “to overlook the regime’s tyranny to do business there”. Jeff makes the analogy with the Apartheid era in South Africa, and to stretch that analogy at little what Google is doing is like refusing to buy South African diamonds while continuing to buy South African fruit: it’s a boycott, but it’s only a boycott when it suits the company.
I’m not knocking Google for this. I think what it’s doing is actually good, and I don’t think an absolute boycott of all things Chinese would be a good approach. But Jeff, as he often does with regard to Google, over-eggs his argument to the point of absurdity. I always wish that this obviously-smart man would get a little more perspective.
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- Sergey Brin: My upbringing in USSR helped ‘shape’ Google’s views on China (telegraph.co.uk)
- Google in Hong Kong Makes Little Dent in China (nytimes.com)
- China Now Blocking Google Mobile Services (gigaom.com)
- Google China services partially blocked (cnn.com)