Friday, March 26, 2010

The Tree of Knowledge of Google and Evil

So, in a post I put up back in January, Not All Google-Eyed Over China, I wrote about Google's moral struggle over doing business with China, and noted that while Google could have been more careful about who it was getting in bed within the first place, better late than never.  And recently, Google actually took the big step of putting an end to its censorship of the special search engine it supplied for China.  As summed up in pithy fashion by Computerworld:

Google defied China's government on Monday and fulfilled its pledge to stop censoring search results from its Chinese search engine. Users who visited were directed to Google's Hong Kong search engine, which delivers information on topics that the Chinese government deems politically controversial and bans search engines from displaying. The row began in January when Google claimed Chinese hackers attacked its servers and it threatened to exit the country or offer unrestricted Web searches. The Chinese government criticized Google's decision but has yet to block access to

And in the same roundup, it's noted that Google is not the only internet concern facing off against China's authoritarian government:

Google isn't the only U.S. company taking on China's Internet policies. Domain name registrar will stop registering .cn domains in China after the country's government demanded information on previously registered domain names. The Chinese government wanted GoDaddy to provide it with photo identification, business identification and a signed registration for owners of all .cn domains that the company has registered during its six years in China. Concerns about the safety of the individuals registering the domains and the threat this posed to an open Internet prompted GoDaddy's decision, a company executive said. The Chinese government claimed that the domains would not work if the domain registrar failed to fulfill its information request. 

So, Go Go GoDaddy!

And, given a choice between Google and China, I'll go with Google, that's a no-brainer.  But does that make Google the good guy, or the lesser of two evils?  The question was underscored, for me, after seeing an Australian video about Google brought to my attention by my old MA student, Sarah Morgan, who came to talk to my Social Media class on Wednesday.  The video is called The Beast File: Google ('HUNGRY BEAST', ABC TV), with ABC here standing for Australian Broadcasting Company, and the description reading

Meet Google. The noun that became a verb. The world's favourite search engine, and the company whose motto is "Don't be evil..."

Graphics by Patrick Clair, written by Elmo Keep.

Full list of sources available here:

'Hungry Beast' airs in Australia on the ABC, 9PM Wednesdays. More stories: 

Anyway, take a look, I think this is really well done, and the ending is just great fun:

And I know what you want to say, you want to say, Lance, hey mate, any Hungry Beast videos about China?  And the answer is, you betcha, it's called Great Firewall Of China (HUNGRY BEAST), and here it is:

So, even here, we have that same ambivalence about Google.  And I can't help but think about Googlezon, that future "history" video that was so popular online a few years ago.  You remember,, right?  But if you forgot, or missed it, you can view the original and a slightly updated (but still a bit dated) version, Epic 2014 and Epic 2015 by clicking here.  And if you've never seen the video, it's worth a screening, as an important bit of cyberculture, and a not unreasonable bit of extrapolation.  But as always, I'll make it easy on you, you know that's what I do, and provide you with the updated version, from 2007, courtesy of YouTube:

And here too, while coming across as a dystopian future along the lines of Orwell and Huxley, things are not all that clear cut.  As the description itself puts it:  "It is the best of times, it is the worst of times."  I suppose they had a dickens of a time coming up with that one.  And maybe it would be apropos to provide more of the opening to A Tale of Two Cities?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Yeah, that's the present period all right!  And as for Google getting out of China, well, I think the folks at Google might well declare:  "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.'"

No comments: