Lately, I've been reading criticism of what some call Google's two-faced
attitude towards censorship. These critics can't understand how Google
can justify cooperating with the Chinese government in censoring search
results to Chinese IPs, and at the same time refusing to cooperate with
the United States government in their efforts to fight Internet pornography.
Some pundits aren't surprised by the behavior. When Google cooperates
with the Chinese government, it makes sure it can have access to the
Chinese populace - something Google has to find desirable - and Google
never promised to be a political champion. Meanwhile, Google's fight
against the U.S. government's request for search results appears to be
anti-censorship, pro-privacy, and a little pro-pornography, but to these
pundits it's really a matter of looking good to its customers.
I don't see this to be so complex. I agree with the pundits who look at
Google's decision to filter the Chinese market as a business decision.
As a public corporation, this really shouldn't be a surprise; Google has
to do what's best for Google. As for their struggle with the U.S.
government, Google must also continue to do what's best for Google. This
means resisting requests for information that exceeds the government's
legitimate need. If the U.S. government is trying to build a case
against Internet pornography, it doesn't need Google to provide a list
of every request for pornography that it received. Statistics should be
sufficient, as no court is going to want to review individual requests.
The government should be more interested in where the porn exists, and
for that, they should have to perform a search, just like everyone else
(a search would also tell them a lot more about how easy it is or isn't
to find the content they wish to find). So, fighting the request
protects the privacy of their users, prevents confidential information
from becoming public record, and protects the business interests of
Google... which is, of course, what Google is mandated to do by virtue
of its public status.
So, don't blame Google for its seemingly inconsistent policies. Google
is simply being Google. It isn't politics. It's business.