Op-ed pages today are rallying behind Google, treating the company's
ultimatum to the Chinese government as a call to arms. Yesterday some
were skeptical that Google's decision to end censorship on Google.cn, and threaten departure, had
anything to do with ethics. Yet today editorials proclaim that, whether
Google move sprang from practicality, morality, or anger, it was a step
in the right direction. Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer, meanwhile, demurred about the stand calling it "the Google problem."
Nevertheless, commentators say Google's stand could set the ball rolling for major change. While competitors may be dragging their feet, writers for embattled newspapers, at least, are attempting to take up the slack
- A Stand, a Stand! "These days, it seems when China pulls its money strings, the rest of the world jumps," writes Barrons's Randall Forsyth. With one exception--Google." The Telegraph
is less dramatic in phrasing, but similarly preoccupied: "Yesterday ...
[China] became the first country to be dealt a very
public snub by one of the best-known brands on the planet. Few
companies have either the wealth or the mindset that enabled Google to
take on the People's Republic so brazenly."
- The Beginning of the End The Telegraph continues to point out that "Google's stand may be a straw in the wind, but it could prove an important one." The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof agrees: "In the long run, I'd put my money on Google." In other words, he thinks openness will eventually prevail in China, thanks to both technology and new generations of Chinese Itnernet-users, whom he praises as "infinitely creative."
- Join the Fight! "More important," write the editors of The Washington Post, "than the question of whether Google.cn survives is the larger issue that Google has now raised for other Western companies and democratic governments--which is whether China's gross and growing abuse of the Internet should be quietly tolerated or actively resisted." They call on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to start supporting "internet-freedom initiatives," instead of continuing to "[deny] support to the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, which says its software can circumvent China's firewall." Pointing out that "firewall-busting" would let users "continue accessing Google's uncensored searches" in the absence of Google.cn, the editors say the measure "ought to be a major part of the Internet initiative Ms. Clinton plans to announce this month."
- That Issue of Motive While many think the move had more to do with business than ethics, others are defending Google. "Google's motives may be mixed, but it has, at last, done the right thing," argues a Guardian editorial. "Whatever the motivations," agrees Nicholas Kristof, "it marks a refreshing contrast to Yahoo assisting the Chinese government in sending four dissidents ... to prison for terms of up to 10 years." At The Independent, David Prosser argues that Google is, in fact, giving up "massive potential" in China: "In these times of disenchantment with big business, assuming the worst about a company's motivations is all too tempting. But on this one, we should give Google the benefit of the doubt."