Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's Like Watching Little Anakin Grow Into Darth Vader

Best title evah!!! as Silicon comments on Google's controversial roll out of a state-agreed censored Google feed to China.
Not had much time to absorb this, but certain obvious arguments can be made : that a censored service, where blocked sites are at least indicated, is better than continual tussles with the government which might lead to either the total blocking of the site to most PRC residents who can't get access via foreign proxy sites etc, and/or the compulsory imposition of invisible upstream filtering; that Google has a considerable number of employees in China and has to protect them from possible Govrnment backlash; that Google is only doing publicly, and with certain safeguards what the likes of Yahoo! and MSN are already doing covertly.

At heart, even if this is the current best-case scenario for China, what this crisis clarifies is the unsatisfactoriness of a world where Internet search is controlled by a private company; as many many have observed this bodes ill to be as unsatisfactory as a world where 90% of operating systems are controlled by Big Bill. The capitalist solution is, presumably, a better competing search engine (though would they not have as mch trouble in China as Google, and without the market power to negotiate on details?)The regulatory solution is to apply human rights law directly to certain private actors such as Google and Microsoft. But how pie in the sky is that, folks?

AS Silicon Valley note, Google put PR credit in the bank with recently refusing the US government subpoena of personal data. Cynically one might hazard that that was intended to counteract a backlash as a result of decision. Knowing some senior Google people personally, I don't actually think that myself - but it will be interesting to see what happenes to the share price.

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