Define “Evil”

Google is famous for its unofficial corporate motto, “Don’t be Evil” (uh, and for making web search useful again). Since going public and aggressively expanding their business across the world, much of the criticism of Google’s business practises has been focused on whether they have decisively ignored this credo.

For evidence of this moral grey-area look no further than google.cn, Google’s Chinese portal, which has been slammed for its adherence to the Chinese government’s strict censorship rules. Google has made the argument (and I must admit that from a pragmatic rather than moral point of view, it’s valid) that in order to do business in China they must comply with local laws and – this is the clincher – it’s better that Chinese citizens have access to some of Google’s index than none at all.

I’m not normally one to side with moral purists, but in this case Google’s argument really annoys me, and smacks of double-standards. Google’s not afraid to challenge the US government on broad issues such as Net Neutrality, why bend over for the Chinese? It’s a little worrying to see that in each case Google has picked the side of the fence that has more money on it – not a comforting precedent. How long before we see a tiny asterisk next to their proud corporate credo?

The reason I write this now is because of two links that I followed from a Slashdot comment. Compare, if you will, a search for “Falun” (Gong, the outlawed Buddhist religious order) in China and the US.

One could argue whether it’s Google or the Chinese Government that is truly “evil”, but why would a company that prides itself on good corporate citizenship voluntarily assimilate itself into the machinery of oppression?