To Free Speech…

Here’s one to free speech. And I don’t mean in a downright-pointless-so-called-awareness-generating-FB-status-message-fad kind of way. This one is for real. Let me clarify at the outset that I am not another mindless Google worshipper. Nor a mindless critic. Though my friends of the geek-variety may be able to shed better light on it, I realize Google has had its own set of issues with individual privacy and stuff. The geeks warn me against Chrome everyday. But, I digress.


Back in 2003 when it entered China, the “Don’t Be Evil” company, it seemed to me, went a wee bit beyond its motto when it agreed to comply with Chinese government’s blatant and unabashed information black boxing in the name of ‘censorship’. Also known as the Golden Shield Project or, my personal favorite, The Great Firewall of China, it meant that on typing certain keywords in the Google.cn search bar, a user would see a censored list of search results with the following message:

“In accordance with local laws, regulations and policies, part of the search result is not shown.”

This was done to block, among others, news about government-sponsored brutality on the streets of China, thoughts of the Dalai Lama, results related to freedom of speech and democracy, all individual views expressed through blogging websites like Blogger and WordPress etc.

Then there were the outright banned searches, which led one to the message:

“Search results may not comply with the relevant laws, regulations and policy, cannot be displayed”

Though censorship was not a new addition in the Google portfolio, in this particular case, by agreeing to these terms for entering the country, Google almost made itself party to the human rights violation of the People’s Republic of China regime. Many reasons were given by Google to justify this form of dictatorship through withholding of information. None worked for most of us.

Then came the welcome news this morning, when I came across this blog from Google. If a hack attack was what it would have taken for them to come around, then we should be almost thankful to the hackers. I realize this can be well explained as a mere corporate reaction to a threat, shrouded in a holier-than-thou cloak. But I like the happy side-effects of the cloak. Google.com still remains accessible to many Chinese people. And though the fate of google.cn remains to be seen, at least Google has put its foot down for something beyond numbers after a while. And at least the Chinese people know that the information they get is not filtered by self-appointed individual or governmental baby sitters.

Welcome back, un-evil Google (even if out of a strategic necessity)!

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