Is Google.cn evil?

So many people seem confused about Google and China.  When Google created google.cn, was that an act of evil?

And when they switched to google.hk, what is the impact on the people of China?

It’s quite simple. China has a firewall. Not the firewalls we see in businesses or homes, but a huge friggin’ firewall that isolates the entire country. That’s a billion users, and one big firewall that separates them from the rest of the world.

If you are in China, and search “tank man”, you won’t see any photos of him standing in front of a tank. You won’t find the Wikipedia entry . You get nothing. He does not exist in China. That’s what the Great Firewall of China does.

So what happens if you are in China, and you go to Google.hk, and search for “tank man”? Google responds, and points to those links. Ever helpful, that Google. And when the person inside of China tries to click on those links, what happens? “No such server.”

But what happens if Google moves their server inside of the Chinese Firewall? Suddenly the whole world has a happy face, and all porn disappears.  So does Tank Man, and Falun Gong, The Dali Lama, Democracy, Marxism, Freedom of speech, Tienanmen Square Protests of 1989, mention of policy brutality, and anything that the Chinese Government views as negative. And Google.cn won’t find these references, because it can’t see them either.

You can see how it would make browsing inside of China more pleasant and convenient for the “proper” citizen of China. who has no desire to go to such sites. It does improve the experience. The customers are happier, because the search result is more accurate (from their perspective). And if you make 1 billion customers more productive, and happier, it’s a good business decision. So Google decided to place a search engine inside of the Firewall. Was that really evil? Well, I can see the business perspective that it does improve the search experience. And it won’t point to unreachable sites. That’s very good for the users.

Yes, it is working “with” the Chinese Government. And I’m sure there were other dealings going on as well. But for the Chinese masses, it was not an act of evil, but of convenience. And the “subversive” citizen can (and will) use google.hk to do unfiltered searches. They could before google.cn. They can now.

Many Chinese citizens dislike the firewall. but Google can’t really change that. There are legitimate sites that get blocked with the “evil” sites. There is no brush so fine that it can separate good from evil. So many citizens of China find ways around the firewall, using software like Tor.

So when Google.cn directed people to Google.hk, they basically said “Here is a search engine that is unfiltered. Use it, and you may discover that your government does not want you to see some sites. We can’t show them to you, but we can let you know they exist. China doesn’t like it because it’s a big arrow that tells people where to go to see what is blocked. It effectively says “unfiltered search – click here.” So it does increase the visibility of this option. It’s teaching the good people in China about the wall that surrounds the country. It’s letting the good people get a peek at the ugly trust.

While I don’t think putting the search engine inside the firewall was an  Extreme Evil Act, as it does offer a convenience for 99% of the citizens of the country, I do like the little “tweak” Google did by redirecting google.cn to google.hk.

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One Response to Is Google.cn evil?

  1. crawler says:

    Hi Bruce,
    very nice article, cheers. I am a big gnu/linux fan and I read your articles about regular expressions and I am impressed. And coz I do not write much comments I want to thank you here bout that as well. Keep up the good work!
    Much appreciated!

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