Google and China and Evilness

I never really got personally angry with Google over their decision to do business with the Chinese government by launching a censored version of their search engine at in 2005. But in late 2006 I visited Taiwan for a conference and learned a lot more about some of the things the Chinese government continues to do, particularly torture and other reported atrocities perpetrated on Falun Gong members. Still, Google’s position on China, which is that they can do more good in the long run by working with the Chinese government and slowly opening it up, made at least some sense.

Now Google is saying they regret the decision to work with China. But they aren’t saying they regret the decision because it was the wrong thing to do, and helps prop up a government that continues to violate the human rights of its own people. Instead, they’re saying it was a bad business decision.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said he regretted the decision because “On a business level, that decision to censor… was a net negative.”

I’m glad that these remarks were made somewhat informally and without massaging from Google PR. It is a rare glimpse into the heart of an organization struggling with coming to terms with its own power, still only a few years old. But if Google wants to stay in the good graces of the smug western crowds, they need to say they regret working with the Chinese government because that government is evil, not because it turned out to be “a net negative” business decision.