Google has become quite the topic of debate in the last six to eight months. From alleged government hacking to having search content censored, the multi-billion dollar top search engine company has been under fire. According to a recent New York Times article by Jonathan Stray and Lily Lee entitled, “After Google’s Move, a Shift in Search Terms,” the company’s recent unfiltered search update for Chinese users created a flash of buzz and then fizzled. Traffic died after a few days because the Chinese government was slow to move on blocking content. Or should I say, allegedly blocking (hmm).
This move spurred an increase of more than 10 times the normal search traffic for politically delicate topics, such as “Falun Gong” and “corruption.” The article mentions that:
In tests over the weekend from several Chinese cities, users searching for “Tiananmen” or even the names of Chinese government leaders reliably found the site google.com.hk mysteriously inaccessible for a few minutes…The more frequently used Chinese search engine Baidu, which continues to censor its results, remained accessible no matter what users searched for.
Although this seems like the big issue here with Google in China, the bigger story here is the fact that anti-Google sentiment is on the rise and pro-Google sentiment is being “eradicated.” This is occurring through statewide digital mandates to remove any content involving Google or any associated terms, especially content that supports the company. This is one of the reasons that Google has been teetering on withdrawing its Chinese operations, but has yet to fully commit to doing so.
Another article in the Irish Times states that:
Most international companies participating in that market are willing to accept the constraints involved in the belief that this rate of growth will outpace the state’s ability to police and censor it.
So, what’s it going to be? Will they remove all operations and cease to fight what they call the good fight or tuck tail and run? Is it in their best interest to be there and maybe wait it out? Is it in the best interest of the people to have accessibility to information?
These questions are but a few that have been posed and remain to be answered. As a PR professional, I think they should remain in China and all other countries they currently operate in. I’m not saying they should become a democratic society, but information and valuable content supports knowledge, economic growth, freedom of thought and so much more. It’s what keeps a living record of our history and reminds each of us of our rich heritage.
Can we really afford to lose that? Chime in… let me know what you think.