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Google rethinks China compromise

Jocelyn Ford Jun 7, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: A lot of people in China can’t Google a darn thing right now. The search engine is trying to figure out why Web surfers are having trouble accessing the site. But it’s not just Google. The last couple weeks, e-mail traffic in and out of China has dropped off significantly.Some folks believe the Chinese government is behind the problems as part of an effort to control the Internet.

I don’t think this is what Google had mind when it struck a deal with China to allow “some” censorship. In fact, yesterday, Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin admitted the whole idea may have been a mistake. He said his company has compromised its principles by bowing to Chinese demands. As Jocelyn Ford reports from Beijing, Google may have some friends in this fight.

JOCEYLN FORD: Multinational Internet companies are discussing taking a united stance when the Chinese government asks them to censor or asks them to hand over personal information about customers who may be arrested for political crimes.

Internet consultant David Wolf:

DAVID WOLF: When a man walks in your door and flicks badge at you in China, you generally try to do everything you can to put a smile on his face.

China doesn’t require court orders to obtain customer data, and foreign companies worry if they don’t cooperate they’ll be shut down.

WOLF: The discussion is right now what can we do about this, how do we need to approach it?

Criticism from human rights and free press groups has prompted multinationals to take action.

Wolf says the industry will have more leverage with the Chinese government if members band together, but he believes they need to include Chinese companies, so it doesn’t look like foreigners are ganging up.

In Beijing, I’m Jocelyn Ford for Marketplace.

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