If you have been paying attention to the news this week, you probably know something about China’s censorship of the Internet and Google’s retaliatory efforts. If you have been living under a rock, the long and short of the issue is that Google agreed to censor (filter) search results to comply with the country’s regulations when it first set up shop in 2006 and in January of this year, announced that it would stop filtering results. Consequently, the Chinese government has blocked some of Google’s search results and services, which as of today include partial blocking of Google Docs and complete blocking of YouTube, among others. Google’s retaliation? Instead of shutting down China’s search engine, Chinese users are now redirected to the Hong Kong site.
Understandably, Gmail and Google Apps business customers with operations and employees in China are concerned that the Chinese government will block access to other services, hindering networking and advertising. As a flaming liberal (with some surprising conservative notions), I find the controversy extremely interesting. On one hand, I respect diverse cultural perspectives and the other, I value our right to freedom of speech and believe in global marketing (with some limitations). That said, one would think I stand a middle ground. But my life experience has taught me that honesty is the best policy, and for me honesty is a trait closely tied to forthrightness. So, if I rulled the world, China would stop censoring the Internet!
U.K.-based Guardian reported Google co-founder Sergey Brin saying “since services and information are our most successful exports, if regulations in China effectively prevent us from being competitive, then they are a trade barrier.” Them’s fighting words! As a search marketing firm with many clients who run operations and have employees in China, we are making it our job to stay abreast of the issues at hand, as well as those that have far-reaching implications.