Google goes to China

Case BRI-1004  Google Inc. in China Kirsten E. Martin

Located at http://www.darden.virginia.edu/corporate-ethics/pdf/BRI-1004.pdf

As the premier international search engine, Google functions in 43 different languages.  Two of these are Chinese and are differentiated as Chinese (Simplified)  and Chinese (Traditional).  Google has a strong and ambitious mission statement. “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” 

In 2006, Google began its’ availability on the Chinese mainland.  In order to receive the necessary government permission, Google agreed to cooperate with the Chinese government in censuring the content of the search results.  For example, a search of Tiananmen Square does not show results of people staring down tanks, but rather includes pictures of everyday life.

Google did not make this commitment easily.  Many meeting were held by the teams of experts in order to decide if being under the control of a totalitarian government was in the best interest of Google. In the words of Elliot Schrage, Google’s vice president of Global Communications and Public Affairs:[Google, Inc., faced a choice to] compromise our mission by failing to serve our users in China or compromise our mission by entering China and complying with

Chinese laws that require us to censor search results.… Based on what we know

today and what we see in China, we believe our decision to launch the Google.cn

service in addition to our Google.com service is a reasonable one, better for

Chinese users and better for Google.… Self-censorship, like that which we are

now required to perform in China, is something that conflicts deeply with our core

principles.… This was not something we did enthusiastically or something that

we’re proud of at all. 

Should Google have entered this marketplace?  If yes, under any condition? If no, should they be responsible for speaking out against censorship?

Heshi Gorewitz

 

 

 

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7 Responses to Google goes to China

  1. greenmba2008 says:

    Making a decision to stand by the organization’s mission or its core principles, which in this case contradict one another is very difficult to make. However, I believe Google should have remained true to its core principles and stood up to what they believed by not going into the Chinese market. By agreeing to the Chinese ways of censorship shows that Google is willing to alter the info that is available through the internet in return of gaining the Chinese market. If this is the first step in compromising their values, how many other compromises will they do? How much incorrect info are they knowingly and willingly making available to the rest of the world?

  2. greenmba2008 says:

    If Google agrees to censorship, it is not clear that they provide any significant value to Chinese users beyond the possibility of speedier search results. There are search engines indigenous to China that provide a service similar to Google. The only obvious reason for Google to compromise its values is to make money from the advertisers who will pay Google to promote their products or services in China. This compromise of values, seemingly in the interest of making money, is far too common in U.S. business and a long term societal detriment, and, as we are seeing, a financial detriment.

  3. Susan Calegari says:

    It is astounding that a company like Google admits to having compromised its core values, but clearly the company does not uphold its own ethical standards in this case. Agreeing to political censorship by the Chinese government makes all future Google market decisions questionable. Profits rather than service to Chinese clients to appears to be the motivating factor for Google entering the Chinese market. In reveiwing the five top values which should guide the ethics program in a company compiled in a survey of corporate heads which was presented in our Ethics class — fairness, respect, responsibility, truth, and freedom — Google fails the “values” test in all five areas. No, they should not be proud of their decision. Looks like Google needs to re-examine its mission and ethical standards.

  4. Mary O'Neil says:

    I think that Google should have stayed true to their mission/values and should not have made any justifications for why they chose to enter the Chinese marketplace. If you display your willingness to make compromises to your mission even once, you should really try to be aware of what else you are compromising. They compromised their good will in public opinion and employee culture may have been compromised as well. You cannot stray from your values, especially if it is for the pursuit of profit.

  5. greenmba2008 says:

    Here is an unusual statement from Google regarding Proposition 8. This Proposition is on the California ballot this election day. It will reverse the ruling that currently recognizes gay marriages. Is Google taking a stand on this in any way connected to the ethical question raised by their work in China?
    “However, while there are many objections to this proposition — further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text — it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 — we should not eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.”

  6. Trevor Ferrigno says:

    As an avid Google user and business professional I agree with Google decision to enter the market in China. Some responders have bashed them for being profit driven but they fail to realize that the sole purpose for being in business is to in fact MAKE A PROFIT not stand up to a communist government. Living in a free society with the freedoms that we all take for granted is a wonderful thing but we can not fault a company, for trying to expand their market share and earning potential, just because the Chinese nation does not share our values.

    Secondly, as far as I can tell, we all want to see a change in China. That change will only come in time and the best way to influence that change is to first get in the door. Inorder to do that Google has to play by China’s rules. This decision will eventually prove to be a good move for Google and as you will all see a good move for the Chinese people.

    A good word of advise for life and business.
    Look miles down the road, not just at this intersection.

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