Ethics of Google in China


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Ethics of Google in China

  1. 1. Name<br />Larry Jennings<br />ACSG 575<br />Essay #1 – Analyzing Google’s censorship in China<br />Introduction:<br />Google is a company that is known around the world for being a technological wonder. They always seem to be ahead of the curve with groundbreaking technology. However, in the efforts to start business in China, Google has started a publicity sandstorm. When a company’s motto is “Don’t be evil” and they go into the largest country in the world agreeing to censorship it makes many people wonder where Google’s priorities lie.<br />In this paper, we will attempt to see if we can ethically support Google’s Decision to do business in China using several by applying several ethical practices such as Utilitarianism, Deontological (Kantian), and the Moral analysis laid out by Aristotle.<br />In this paper we will examine the ethical decisions that are being made for Google to move their business into China. We will make this examination on several ethical theories such as utilitarianism, Kantianism, and the general moral imperatives of this move.<br />In order to do our analysis, let’s lay out some of the basic facts of this case.<br />Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market.<br /> Inc., a Beijing-based company in which Google owns a 2.6 percent stake, currently runs China's most popular search engine.<br />Google will base its censorship decisions on guidance provided by Chinese government officials.<br />Google will limit the access to search results as well as news and other services. Even withholding services where needed so that they do not have to turn over the personal information of other users.<br />Additionally, in order to perform our various analyses:<br />We will identify our facts,<br />We will identify our stakeholders as it is important to know who has what to gain.<br />We will then consider all possible actions.<br />Once these actions are identified however, we can then apply the different schools of thought to each situation.<br />All Possible Actions:<br />Do nothing and Google will not make any additional money but will keep their reputation intact<br />Who Benefits: Since nothing changes, nothing changes <br />Google moves into China and conducts business without censoring anything<br />Who Benefits: It might be the people of china but they would never realize that benefit as the government would shut Google down. Google would just lose money.<br />Who is harmed: Google would only hurt itself in this particular situation.<br />Google move into China and censors the information that the government requests.<br />Who Benefits: Google does as they will have access to a larger market to profit from. The people of China benefit to some degree as they have access to a new technology and potentially some of the other Google technologies (Docs, Maps) that they might not be able to get otherwise. The people of China could also benefit in theory from allowing a western company to begin business there. Potentially this could open the door down the line for other companies and eventually, the Government loosening restrictions further.<br />Who is harmed: Again, The people of China as they are not getting the full amount of information that Google should really be providing. Google’s partner company would potentially lose business as well since Google is such a large company. It would not hurt Google to take out its own partner. Google’s reputation is also harmed by this situation as the wider world begins to attack Google for not taking a stand against the Chinese Governments attack on human rights<br />Stakeholders:<br />When looking at an ethical situation, it is important to know who gains what. In this case, our stakeholders are as follows:<br />Google – Google is first and foremost a business. While Google likes to have its hand in many different areas at this point in time, their primary goal as a company is to make money. Google has to look at its business profits, vs., the reputation factors that could play into their move in China.<br />Google’s Shareholders – Again The people invested in Google have to trust Google to make a correct move here by making Money and keeping the reputation of the company in good shape.<br />People of China – the people of China have arguably most at stake. On one hand they get the perk of using the Google search engine and the access that it can bring to find web sites. However, they do not get the full “freedom” of the internet as a tool for freedom of speech. They only get those sites which are approved by the government. Additionally, their day to day lives and fear of the government does not really change.<br />Government of China – the government of china is a very (Closed minded) government. However, they remain in power by keeping their people ignorant of the outside world. If Google were to supply open search results, they would risk things as small as public outcry but what could grow larger as public revolution.<br />World at Large – The world is in a state of outcry because the world believes that the people of China should be freed.<br /> - While Google has a minority stake in, they are still an independent company and Google moving in could put them out of business.<br />The Technology Issues:<br /> The main technology issue in this situation is Google’s ability to censor a list provided by the government – I think that this is the largest issue here is that Google can go through its own search results and find phrases and remove them. This could allow governments to remove any information that they deem fit. While the people of china may be used to not having all of this information, who is to say that the same technology could not be used by other countries to remove information that they feel is not for the public benefit. <br />The Moral Issues:<br />The main moral issue to this story is the following question: What does it say about Google as a company that they will move into a country where the government thinks so little of its people. Is there any good that would come to help ease the suffering of the Chinese people by Google doing business there, or is it just because of the marketplace and the value that it holds?<br />Utilitarian Analysis:<br />In order to perform this analysis we must look for the actions that Google can have. When looking at this situation from a Utilitarian perspective, we look at essentially, the total good. If the total good outweighs the total harm, then we have a basis for utilitarian acceptance. Or as the famous Mr. Spock from Star Trek once said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.<br />I firmly believe that a true act utilitarian would be in favor of Google’s move into china. My logic behind this is that the people of China are not really being “harmed” by Google’s censorship. The people of china are getting this same treatment everywhere else in their culture state TV, newspapers, radio. While Google might lose a little respect, they will gain enough long term and I think that even getting into the country would be the first step to opening that door wider and possibly having the Chinese government realize that while they can try to restrict things on the internet, you really cannot do it well. There is always a potential that something, somewhere, somehow will slip through.<br />A Rule utilitarian would want to look at how this move would work down the line. This gets into all sorts of guesswork. Will the Chinese government become more or less restrictive? Will Google take some of its money from its Chinese profits and use it to fund pro-china reform campaigns? <br />Deontological Analysis:<br />While the Utilitarian is all about the consequences, the Kantian is all about the motive. In summation “Why are you doing something?” Kant would suggest that you should act in a way that everyone should act universally. We should look at the motive for Google to do business in China. If the motive is for Google to make money and at the same time, not help the people of China gain freedom. The moral or categorical imperative in this situation would be something along the lines of “Google makes money while others still suffer” now Kant would look at this in a way like, If other companies did the same thing, everyone could suffer. That is not a very moral attitude to take. A moral attitude to take would be all people should be free and respected. Neither of which is happening here. The people of China are being neither respected by Google or the Government. With that being said, in this case, Google is defiantly using the people of China as a means to an end. Google is using the people of China to turn a profit.<br />I don’t think that this analysis would be complete without looking at it from a different perspective. If we could give ourselves the leeway to question that the reason Google entered into business in China was to start granting the people of China more access to everyone else. Meaning, for example, this is the first step in the path to the freedom of the Chinese people. Then I think that a Kantian would allow such a relationship to continue. Thus by changing the motive to, as Sandal puts it, not just uphold to the moral law but to conform to the moral law, would make this perfectly acceptable. Any other motive in this situation however, I believe Kant would find the reasoning wanting. . <br />Virtue Analysis:<br />Looking at this situation from a Virtue perspective, we really want to look at the idea of “What kind of person should I be and how do I grow as a person, a company or a country”. When looking at what could promote virtues such as fairness and honesty, I firmly believe that Google would not be acting in an ethical manner. How fair is it to censor the people of China? How fair is it to work with the government and keep a citizenry in the dark? I don’t even think that the money comes into it when looking at this from a virtuous perspective. They way to act with the highest morals here is really to not do it at all. Or, if anything, fight the Chinese government so that they don’t limit speech anymore to any of their people.<br />Of course when looking at the virtues of a situation, you must try to look at the vices as well. In this situation Greed is the overwhelming vice. The whole reason for making this move is to add to the coffers in one form or another.<br />Conclusion:<br />In this essay, we have looked at the situation in China using three ethical theories. The Utilitarian who would let Google go in and do what they wanted to do believing that there is much benefit to be gained. The Kantian who would believe that Google’s entry into China was based on false motives. Lastly we looked at how a virtuous person would probably see greed as the main reason for entering China.<br />Our Utilitarian analysis was somewhat helpful from the typical “Who does this benefit perspective. However, there is really a lot more to be said for the motives. Many people could benefit but (again) at one cost. The Utilitarian really does not take that into account.<br />The Kantian and Virtue analysis really takes some of the “why” into account. This is where most of the larger picture is revealed. Since it’s not enough to just count numbers but to get into some of the reasoning behind things, they prove a far more valuable analysis tool.<br />When Google announced that it was moving into China, there were many different outcries from different socio-political organizations. Looking at this situation now after doing some analysis has led us to the following conclusion. Google’s move into China was a bad move, at least from an ethical standpoint. If you’re looking from the Utilitarian perspective it may seem like a great move that one billion now have access to products and technologies that they did not prior<br /> However when looking at the motives behind the deal, it shows of greed. Google’s main reason for moving into China was the most basic of all: greed. And Greed in this day and age is sometimes just not the right move to make, especially when the entire world is trying to hold you to a greater, nobler standard. Even more when your company has the motto “Don’t be evil!” <br />