Monday, March 22, 2010

China and Google

Things are certainly heating up in China as Google is preparing to exit the massive Internet market. While critics are skeptical of Google's underlying motivation for this move, there appears to be little doubt that 'restricted free speech' is at least one of the fundamental reasons for this move. Regardless of the immediate impact that this strategy has, I think there are at least three precedents that this will set. First, because of Google's trusted brand, the world, including Chinese citizens, are now that much more aware of controversial human rights issues associated with freedom of speech in this nation. Whether or not human rights is in fact an issue in China is, I think, less important than the global attention this story has created. Second, Google, as a for-profit company, is raising the bar on expectations of companies that face decisions that present a trade-off between profit and the public good. Third, as mentioned in earlier posts, companies will be hard-pressed to avoid situations where they are playing the role of government or at the very least filling in gaps in public service left by governments. There is no doubt that the private sector is the largest and most powerful actor in today's global society. Regardless of their motivations, Google's move highlights how this power could very well be a force for public good.

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