Don’t be evil (unless you can make money!)

So we all know Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t be evil.” It’s not the most inspired thing in the world; since evil is a rather strong term and it leaves a lot of wiggle room compared to something like “Always be good.”

Now recently, Google made a deal with the Chinese government. Basically, the Chinese government has an internet firewall which tries to stop it’s citizens from accessing certain kinds of information on the internet. Here in America, we have a word for this: censorship. In the past, the Chinese government would block certain content that Google helped Chinese citizens access, but now Google has agreed to censor itself based on the Chinese government’s requirements. Now of course, Google being a search engine (and a very good one at that) has a pretty clear goal: make information available to people. Obviously censorship and the whole concept of a search engine are in conflict with each other.

So what does this mean? Well if a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a good example:

Do a search for “tiananmen square” pictures in the US version of Google: http://images.google.com/images?q=tiananmen+square

verses the Chinese version of Google:
http://images.google.cn/images?q=tiananmen+square

Just a wee-bit different, huh? Now here’s the billion dollar question: Would Google do this sorta thing to get on the good graces of the Chinese government if China didn’t represent such an important market for Google’s services? If this was Somalia we were talking about, do you think Google would censor pictures of things the Somalian government thought cast a bad light on it? I seriously doubt it.

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