The Scientific Activist (Archives)


Jan 26, 2006

It's OK to Be a Little Evil

Google, whose motto is “Don’t be evil,” has decided that it doesn’t need to take this mantra so seriously anymore. Dollars trumping morals, the internet giant announced this week that it would launch a new censored search engine in China in order to reach a larger market.

Although many of its peers, including Yahoo and Microsoft, have participated in direct censorship in China for some time, Google has for the most part held out. What does Google have to say about its new philosophy?
While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.

So, the new philosophy at Google appears to be “Don’t be evil… unless you have to be.” The company deserves some credit, though, because when Google censors, it censors in style. The BBC reports:
Google hopes its new address will make the search engine easier to use and quicker.

Its e-mail, chat room and blogging services will not be available because of concerns the government could demand users' personal information.

Google said it planned to notify users when access had been restricted on certain search terms.

The company argues it can play a more useful role in China by participating than by boycotting it, despite the compromises involved.

Although the recent move may help Google avoid some government harassment in China, it might make things a bit more complicated back in the U.S., where the Justice Department—once again demonstrating how much the U.S. really values privacy and free speech more than those bad people over in China—filed a lawsuit last week against Google for failing to give up demanded information on individual users’ internet searches.

Google has so far taken the high road in this case (unlike AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft, who all caved in), but the hypocrisy here is pretty obvious. “Don’t be evil... but only in America?”

I have a love/hate relationship with Google. Like many other people I know, I can’t function normally without it, but I don’t really like the idea of Google storing data on my latest search for old Guns N’ Roses lyrics, or anything else for that matter. In fact I’m a little bit scared of Google.

I don’t fear Google like I fear nuclear war, the monster under my bed, or John Ashcroft—no, that’s pure terror. It’s more that I fear Google kind of like I fear Yellow Tail wine, Australia’s most recent dubious export to the U.S. Sure, it seems harmless. In fact, I’ve been known to enjoy a glass or two. However, for something so mediocre, so exceptionally unexceptional, it has done incredibly well for itself… almost too well… and now it is completely ubiquitous in America’s low-price wine market.

If only it could help me think of the name of that guy I saw in that movie that was on TV the other night. Then it would definitely be worth keeping around.


  • Nick, I love reading your blog. Keep up the good work with writing, grad school, and all that.
    -Melissa Lientz (from Paschal HS)

    By Blogger TeachMeScience, at Thu Jan 26, 06:44:00 PM  

  • Thanks. I look forward to reading yours as well.

    By Blogger Nick Anthis, at Thu Jan 26, 08:34:00 PM  

  • I don't think what Google is doing is evil at all. Anything that provides the Chinese people with a distibuted source of information is better than one that is dictated by the state. Even if it is required to be censored, that's still a net plus. Blogging has already undermined the government's attempts to suppress unfortunate stories of corruption and mismangagement.

    In addition, there is no major country in the world I know of, and certianly not the US, that doesn't require ISPs to give up consumer data in certain situations. This is almost routine.

    By Blogger plunge, at Tue Feb 07, 10:16:00 PM  

  • I'm a little late to discovering your blog. I'm kinda new to this whole blog thing. I just started my own, I'm not meaning to Spam, but it is Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Research in case you might have any feedback (you seem to know a lot and have blogged a lot about it. But my job is to help people start their internet businesses (SEO) and all that. I wasn't familiar with China regulations, even though this is old. But I don't think that google can be critiqued too hard for this. China could care less about google "making a point" to them, and it can still fulfill it's purpose as much as the law allows. So I think they are kind of making the most out of a crappy situation. Anyway, that's just my thoughts.

    By Anonymous Laptop Computer Backpacks, at Sun Dec 17, 12:33:00 AM  

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