It's good to see that Isaac Mao's Open Letter to Google Founders
has got a lot of attention. The basic message is that Google is losing big time because of it's compromise with the Chinese authorities, and it really hits home to have this said by a prominent Chinese blogger. I'm sure there's been similar rumblings inside Google itself for a long time - even back in July last year Google co-founder Sergey Brin admitted that the company had compromised its principles by launching a censored search engine in China, and when he was challenged at this year's WEF in Davos he said "On a business level, that decision to censor... was a net negative."
At the end of his letter Mao makes 3 recommendations - the most interesting to me is the second that called on Google to "develop anti-censorship tools and service for global Internet users". This reminded me of a great post by Greg Walton asking Can Google afford privacy?
which lays out the case for doing exactly that. Greg brings together two facts - that Google one of the most powerful supercomputing platforms in the world, and existence of Tor, a distributed network that anonymizes web browsing. As he says
Suppose Google were to install Tor's Onion Routers throughout its serverfarms. Global internet users communications would bounce around anonymously in a massive distributed network of virtual tunnels. It would be unprecendented in scale, a network that would open up the internet to people in censored regimes all around the world. It would enable a generation of software developers to create new communication tools with privacy built-in. The Google platform running onion routers would provide an ecosystem for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their identity.
Too right! Although these days, i think more people would question whether Google could be trusted to run a service like this.
In my view, what Yahoo! has done is exchange power for money, i.e. to win business profit by engaging in political cooperation with Chinaâ€™s police. Regardless of the reason for this action, and regardless of what kinds of institutions are involved, once Yahoo! complies with the CCP to deprive human rights, what it does is no longer of a business nature, but of a political nature. It cannot be denied that Chinaâ€™s Internet control itself is part of its politics, and a despotic politics as well. Therefore, the â€œpower for moneyâ€ exchange that takes place between western companies like Yahoo! and the CCP not only damages the interests of customers like Shi Tao, but also damages the principles of equality and transparency, the rules that all enterprises should abide by when engaging in free trade. And it follows that if Yahoo! gains a bigger stake in the Chinese market by betraying the interests of its customers, the money it makes is â€œimmoral moneyâ€, money made from the abuse of human rights.
I've personally heard unconvincing excuses from the representatives of such corporates as Google and Yahoo, and Liu Xiaoboâ€™s letter from the heart speaks for me too.