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Facebook’s Evil Plan in China

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

The great China Beat has just published an article by James A. Millward about Facebook’s controversial plans for China.  The article is written from a cultural/human rights perspective, and it includes an interesting passage from LuXun’s Nahan.

“Imagine an iron house without windows, absolutely indestructible, with many people fast asleep inside who will soon die of suffocation. But you know since they will die in their sleep, they will not feel the pain of death. Now if you cry aloud to wake a few of the lighter sleepers, making those unfortunate few suffer the agony of irrevocable death, do you think you are doing them a good turn?”

 

“But if a few awake, you can’t say there is no hope of destroying the iron house.”

A nice quote, not unlike some of the comments I got in the Ai Weiwei post. Mr. Millward’s point is, in a nutshell:  that businesses (and Bob Dylan) admittedly don’t have an obligation to spread democratic values. BUT that we can appeal to the stated principle of Facebook “to help people understand the world around them” and nail them with that.

This is an argument reminiscent of the Google non-evil saga, which makes me think:  the day all those tech companies stop getting themselves in trouble with their idealistic statements we will know the tech market is growing old…

Back to the post, I am not particularly against Mr. Millward’s point: the Chinese are “sleeping” in their iron house, let’s make some noise to wake them up. Then again, it may still be 5am in China now with the time difference, perhaps they want to stay in bed a bit longer…  it’s fine if you want to make noise outside, lead by example. But please don’t make the mistake of breaking in to kick them out of their beds. Only theirs is the freedom to choose, even when their choice is a bit more of oppression.

The View from Reality Camp

Back from the fascinating realm of metaphor and into the tough Chinese internet. Quite apart from the moral side of this, there are some important issues with the practical implementation of the FB plan in China:

  • As Bill Bishop already mentioned, the train has long passed for FB here. General social networks are all about critical mass of users, the rest is gimmicks. The only possible chance would be, as suggested by Hu Yanping,  to come with an existing local player.
  • Either way, it is impossible to implement the level of censorship required on social networks today without effectively separating them from the rest of the World-(ie. to have the FB China servers open in China and the rest of the World with Facebook.com behind the GFW).
  • This makes the whole Facebook plan pointless indeed, as it fails to deliver the single value that, in my view, could justify all the trouble: to help connect China with the rest of the World.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t worry so much about the ethical side of this-I doubt we will ever reach that point.  Facebook may lend their name to some weird creature in China, perhaps, and they will pay it with their reputation.  But the real core of Facebook  is the 500 million community that it has in the World, and this, unfortunately, is out of reach for the Chinese netizens.

Google vs China: The Soft A-bomb

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

images3How many times have we seen the discussion on China forums about what exactly is Soft Power? That mysterious force of the white side that the Jedi use in international politics, turning all arguments to their advantage? China has coveted this weapon for years and spent many a valuable resource in its quest, but all to no avail, to the point that some have started to doubt the very existence of the Force.

Well, for those who doubted, here you have the proof. Get the solid worldwide reputation of Google Inc. for non-evilness, add an American president that enjoys public support in almost every corner of the World, and you can assemble a Megaton soft bomb with the power to break through all the conventions of international politics. That is exactly what Google’s actions represent today, and for the time being they are obtaining the expected support outside of China. Click to continue »

Google vs China: It’s all in the form

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

imagesSo Google has done it finally. My worst predictions have turned out to be right, and Google.cn is living on in exile, challenging the authority of the Chinese government from Hong Kong. Speak of burning the bridges.

Like usual, most of the commentators our there got it all wrong. This is not about Google offering an open service to the Chinese from outside. If Google wanted to do that, they would quietly close down Google.cn and continue with their HK search site as they were already doing before. There is nothing new on this Google HK except the translation of the interface to simplified mandarin, a simple tweak that has little impact on usability for mainland netizens.

If Google really wanted the Chinese to enjoy free search, they could have tried to give some face to the Chinese government, instead of literally forcing it to retaliation.

But Google HK is obviously not a sustainable plan, it is just a gesture, an open challenge to the authority of the CCP. The redirection to this site and the welcoming message in simplified is clear enough in this respect: “welcome to the New page of Google search in China”. Take that, Beijing, we don’t give a damn what you say, anti-democratic freak. Click to continue »

Sex and Conservatives in China (2) [NSFW]

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

SP32-20100312-192923Disclaimer: In the interest of science, this post contains sexually explicit material. If you are underage and/or a sensitive person you are advised not to scroll down. If you don’t read Chinese it’s OK.

This is the continuation of the previous post in the series, where we ended up rambling off the main topic and into a thick soup of political terms. Today I am back to impose some discipline. The article was meant to be about sex, and sex we will do. Just stick around for a few paragraphs of theory, or scroll right down to the examples if you prefer.

The question we considered last time was: why communist regimes, most of which have abolished religion at some point, are in fact among the most puritan countries regarding porn? Which can be otherwise formulated: why are Chinese commies so prudish? With the ever growing impulse of the porn censoring machine, this may well become one of the fundamental questions to understand modern China. Click to continue »

Google Buzz blocked in China!

Friday, February 12th, 2010

SP32-20100211-184445

NOTE: For those readers who’ve been offline for the past 3 days, this is a post about Google Buzz, the new Google service that has invaded the World’s mailboxes this week.

But take it easy, hold on a sec, don’t rush to your GFW test tools, this has not happened yet. I just want to be the first to announce it and get all the credit, since I am 90% certain that Google Buzz will be blocked within a week. The remaining 10% I am hedging in case the GFW censors get too high on Baiju over the New Years and their reactions are a bit slower than expected.

Look, I hate playing blogger of doom, but this is just how China works today. I’ve heard a few opposed opinions from bloggers I respect, and I am ascribing that to wishful thinking. There is no way Google Buzz is going to continue open, here is why:

  • Gbuzz is attracting very fast a larger number of users than Twitter or Facebook in China, due to its use of Gmail, a relatively popular email service here.
  • The viral transmission potential of Google Buzz is extraordinary, and very appealing for the Chinese way of using the internet. In the first 24 hours of GBuzz in China the popular Chinese bloggers where getting far more comments than pioneers like Robert Scoble.
  • After their recent controversy with the Chinese authorities, Google put Gmail (and now GBuzz) on HTTPS, which means that the GFW cannot  see the content flowing inside China. They cannot block particular users or keywords, and neither can they force a self-censorship of Google as they did with the Google.cn, for reasons both technical and political for the Google company.

So what we have here is a means of massive viral communication, completely out of control and with a potential to piss off the Chinese authorities that may be second only to the Epoch Times.

A Real-time Simulation

For those who still don’t agree with me, I have used my old engineering supercomputer to do a real-time simulation of the upcoming events, starting from yesterday, when most Chinese Gmail users got access to GBuzz. The first 4 steps have already happened as of February 12:

Step1: GBuzz is rolled out in China and within hours the popular bloggers are getting streams of comments in the few hundreds. One of the first subjects of discussion is whether the Buzz will be blocked or not.

Step2: Some Chinese users start timidly testing the system with unmodified swearwords and taboos, such as Caonima and Malagebi. Euphoria: no comments are deleted or blocked!

Step3: - After 12h some Chinese users are already sending pictures of beautiful ladies with a peculiar tendency to wear less and less clothes even as the winter is hitting back hard on the mainland.

Step 4: Bloggers like Han Han or AiWeiwei discover GBuzz and start broadcasting there. Not only their posts, but worst still, the flow of comments is out of reach of the Chinese authorities. Comment threads are by now in the tens of thousands.

Step 5: The next big viral event hits the Chinese internet, and seeing that all comments get erased on the other blogs and microblogs, even more people starts flocking to GBuzz.

Step 6: By now most netizens have understood that GBuzz is their GFW free day out. Uncensored photos of Edison Chen or drunken party cadres recirculate widely, people even write appraisals of the performances. More than 50% of the words on GBuzz worldwide are in mandarin characters, and about 10% of them are some form of 妈/逼 word construction (mother /cunt).

Step 7: The early days of FOS were rather hectic, but the people finally realizes the advantages of communicating freely. The divide between the Chinese internet and the rest of the world is disappearing quickly, and Google Buzz has written a page in World history.

… in the meantime, somewhere in the middle kingdom…

the evil 5Mao teams of netizens sold to the the party have caught up with GBuzz and are calling their bosses in the propaganda department to wake up from their baijiu dreams and show up at the GFW headquarters with red tape and pruning shears…

Conclusion

OK, I think you get the gist by now. And the conclusion is this: there is no way GBuzz is going to remain open in China. The only question remaining to answer is what will happen to the rest of the Google services, in particular Gmail and Google.com (G.cn is already doomed in my books).

I see here 2 possibilities:

1- Google Buzz could technically be blocked without blocking GMail, in spite of their integration. The GFW could achieve this by using intelligent URL blocks on the #buzz string that appears on all the buzz URLs. Easier still, since they are in negotiation with Google, they could ask G to facilitate the blocking of GBuzz in exchange for GMail remaining open.

2- GBuzz might go down and take down with it all the Google services in China once and for all. Especially this can be true if the negotiations between Google and the Chinese government are not as smooth as I supposed lately. This has happened already in Iran, and I am certain most leaders in the CCP wouldn’t even  blink. Or does anyone think they care about the outside opinion on China’s freedom of speech?

So this is only a 2-way dilemma, I don’t see any other solution. The final outcome of the Google vs. China affair is coming very soon, precipitated by the unexpected birth of GBuzz. Neither Google nor the CCP can afford to wait much longer, as the pressure is mounting on both sides. The end is near, fasten your belts and turn on your VPNs.

And Happy New Year of the Tiger

And now I am going to close the computer, leave the office and take a flight to a certain tropical destination in South East Asia where I intend to spend my New Year’s Holidays. When I am back to Shanghai on the 22nd, Google Buzz will be over in China, and I will be just in time to pick up the pieces. I look forward to a whole new series of posts on the year of the Tiger.

Happy New Year to all, 恭喜发财!

Google Documents and Groups Open in China!

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

imagesHoly Smokes!

Something is moving in Google China.

I have been working for the last 12 hours with Google docs, and I just realize I was using Yi’s computer, the one that doesn’t have the VPN installed. This means that Google Documents is unblocked since  yesterday evening at least.  And so is Google Groups! Both sites were blocked by the Chinese GFW until recently.

Now I don’t know what to make of this. Is the GFW tinkering with the censorship algorithms as it prepares to include the whole of Google.com in the block and turn off the lights for ever? Or are the negotiations in Beijing going fine, like we were wishfully trying to guess this week from the mini-Youren updates?

For the moment my tests of Google.cn and Google.com show no difference from censorship as usual. More about this coming soon, plus a recap of the situation in advance of possible changes. Stay tuned.

.

Why it’s Good that Google.cn Leaves + SEM (2)

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

GoogleAngel2_thumb3Back on the job. On re-read, I have the feeling that I might have been too optimistic yesterday. Sure, the style of Google’s announcement betrayed personal involvement, and once at the negotiation table it is to be expected that a more businesslike atmosphere will prevail. But even if G shuts up, it is not sure that the CCP will let them get away with it. Depending on who they have at the table, the outcome will be anything between the two extremes we have considered.

But let’s leave our bipolar guesswork aside for a while, so we can concentrate on a more interesting issue. Namely, that it’s great that Google.cn is going to disappear, and that whatever happens to the rest of the Gs, the Chinese internet will be a better place when Google.cn is gone. Let’s start with some crude survey work:

Baidu, Google.cn or Google.com?

I improvised a little survey today in the office, where I asked three of my young Shanghai colleagues which search engines they like to use. Interestingly, the answers were very similar, and all included some form of the following statements:

  • Baidu.com is better for local information and Chinese culture.
  • Google.cn we use sometimes for international information.
  • Google.com? Nah, that’s for foreigners.

These results are surprising, because as we saw yesterday, Google.com and Google.cn are exactly the same engine.  It doesn’t make any sense to search on Google.cn, where anything as innocent as 胡锦涛 (HuJintao) is obviously SEM manipulated. For the first experiment of the day we can see how, using this slightly conflictive term, results start to differ between G.com and G.cn. Try the links, see where there’s a Wikipedia article missing?

But the best of all is the answer given by the sample colleagues when I insist on why they use Google.cn: Oh well, the browsers here  direct you to Google.cn by default. That is probably the main reason why G.cn is ranked 3rd on Alexa for China, while G.com is only ranked 6th.

Hey, wait a second. Are you telling me that all it takes to get an identical, non SEM-ed Google Search in China is to type a “.com”, and 300 million netizens haven’t noticed in the last 4 years? Well, yeah. Kind of. Let me introduce you to:

The Chinese censorship and its peculiar victims

This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Chinese censorship in the West. I realized this with the crazy Wang post, the one that was linked in an article 3 days straight on the Most Read list of the New York Times. I got lots of hits, and also lots of mail from creative Americans proposing ideas to help “free the Chinese” from the claws of the GFW.

But listen, the sad reality is, the CCP’s systems of censorship are so effective not because they are diabolically sophisticated, but because… because the Chinese netizens can’t give a damn if they are being censored by their government or not.

You don’t believe me? Then perhaps you have a better theory to explain why nobody uses the widely available, free web proxies to surf the internet. Or why the majority of Chinese netizens still use Google.cn when they have an identical search engine that is not manipulated on Google.com

Shocking, right? But not so much. The truth is that, in spite of popular funny memes and the occasional juvenile rant, the majority of Chinese who are rich enough to use the internet are happy with the status quo. They do find it mildly annoying to be treated like children by the CCP, but as long as the bills are paid, they don’t think so much of it.

And this is also why, if someone wants to create a device against the GFW, the user activated systems like proxies or Tor are not effective, because people simply don’t use them. The idea of a Server Side Proxy, or the Unblockable Host that would unblock a site WITHOUT action by the end user, was discussed here, and I concluded it was not feasible.

This is also the reason why initiatives like Chrter 08 never make it in China: it is not about users trying to get access to dissident sites, it is about dissidents unable to market their ideas to a general population that is unreceptive.

Advanced SEM for Dummies (Search Engine Manipulation)

The most amusing thing in the Google crisis is all the commentators crying about the loss of Google.cn and its negative consequences for the freedom of the Chinese. In fact, I maintain that Google.cn is the most evil product to ever have existed in the Chinese internet, and the World will be a better place without it.

That is because, unlike the Chinese official sites that practice censorship, what the search engines do is manipulation. Why? Because Google.cn is not a content site in itself, it is a gateway to the internet. When people type in a keyword into the search field, they are actually trusting it to return a fair picture of what is on the net.

When you type a “sensitive” term and G.cn removes all the results except the People’s Daily and Xinhua, Google’s responsibility is double: not only it supports those often objectible views on the first page, but it also implicitly states that it is the ONLY opinion existing in the World.

And the worse is, the Chinese who believed that would be right to do so, because Google’s well known principles clearly specify their commitment to give all the information available  in a democratic way. The little warning message that is displayed on Google.cn SEM searches is meant to avoid this situation, but it is tiny and often placed right at the bottom of the page, so most Chinese users just ignore it.

In the case of Google.cn, SEM is not about “good” or “evil”. It is about breaking the very principles that give a sense to the Google company, and it is understandable that Google has never been comfortable with it.

TEST TRANSLATION GOOGLE.COM GOOGLE.CN
Neutral Word Shoe

Shanghai Pudong

Normal Results

Normal Results

Normal Results

Normal Results

Sensitive
Term
Hu Jing Tao

TNM massaccre

Normal Results

Normal Results

SEM  Results

SEM  Results

RC trigger string chinayouren.com/eng

Fallunggong

RC Block

RC Block

Normal Results

SEM Results

All tests in Chinese, English spelling is on purpose. The anomaly in the chinayouren string proves that in some rare cases G.cn does give better results that G.com, as SEM does not apply to petty disharmony. Click to continue »

Google: Good News + Advanced Study of SEM (1)

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Google Angel2You might be wondering why this story of Google is taking up so much space in this otherwise low-tech blog. I am as well. I think what fascinates me is the almost complete absence of first hand news after the G bomb. The time is for speculation, and for China bloggers and tea leave readers like me, it feels like we are right in our element. To the rest, welcome to China.

Yesterday I imagined a worst case scenario where Google let ugly international politics get mixed into this affair. That was just a scenario of doom, and not the outcome I consider most likely. In fact, I believe the G leaders are more intelligent than all that, and today I want to offer my personal, optimistic prediction. And to round it up, we will go back to the basics for a little study of Search Engine Manipulation, an essential and often ignored concept.

My prediction

I was glad to hear today that Google wants to retain its operations in China, and that it is “ready to shut down its local search engine Google.cn unless it is allowed to run it uncensored”.

The key info here is “shut down its local search engine”. This would mean that Google is not going to force the situation anymore. Because the best way to piss off the CCP today would be to suddenly uncensor Google.cn without notice, and have the Propaganda Department issue an official note to close the servers. The document would be in all the headlines, and that would represent  an unmistakeable challenge to the CCP’s authority.

But as it stands today, regardless of the old “face” arguments that some commentators have written, I don’t think the situation is critical. The CCP is not particularly happy to see Google leave, and if Google keeps its blogging enthusiasm under control, there is no reason why they will not be lenient. For all the bad points I noted in Google’s initial post, it has the great advantage of being ambiguous. Most Chinese people haven’t read the text, and the CCP can ignore the ultimatum implied and ascribe it to bad Laowai manners, a la emperor Qing.

I am predicting that if Google comes back to reason and avoids big game politics in the coming weeks, in exhange for that the Chinese government will let them get away with the rest.  Well, probably Google will encounter some administrative trouble in their business, their Android plans might take ages to get approved, because the CCP needs to give a lesson to other audacious companies in the future.

But that is a problem of Google and its shareholders. What really matters to us is the freedom and openness of the Chinese internet, and here is the big news of the day: if Google.cn closes and Google.com remains, the Chinese internet will be MORE FREE THAN IT IS TODAY! You don’t believe me? Keep reading to find out why.

Google.com and Google.cn

One interesting thing of the Google search engines that is not very well understood is the difference between the different country sites: Google.com, Google.cn, Google.co.uk, etc. People don’t understand this simply because Google does not explain it in the instructions, and because it has changed over time.

But it is very easy to do some tests and compare the search results to come to this conclusion: what really matters is not the extension of the search engine, but your actual location. The simple reality is that, for Chinese non-SEM search terms (more below), the results in China for Google.com and Google.cn are exactly IDENTICAL. They have the same results in the same order, differing only in the sponsored ads.

If you are in China you can try this by looking up neutral terms like 上海浦东 or 鞋子. Google.com and Google.cn share indeed a single index, and the only difference between them is SEM, or the Manipulation of Search Engine results artificially done by Google in its Google.cn search engine. For various reasons that we will see below, this SEM is the shame of Google and the curse of the Chinese internet. Not only China, but Google Inc. and the whole World is much better off without Google.cn.

This means that, if Google operates smoothly and succeeds to retain in China its PR&D operations, it is very possible that in exchange the CCP will allow them to keep Google.com unblocked (GFW). Then the Chinese netizens, free of the scourge of Google.cn, will click on Google.com, and automatically be free of the brainwashing effects of Google.cn.

Search Engine Manipulation (Introduction)

I know athe conslusions above might sound a bit strange, and there are clearly a few objections that you can make. Namely, that URL and IP blocks still affect the sites you find on Google.com, producing the beautiful Reset Connections (RC) that we are so used to. But there are very important reasons to prefer the Google.com way to the Google.cn way. I need to get some sleep, but stay tuned and tomorrow I will give you the explanation and some nice pictures as evidence.

In the meantime, re-read last year’s study on SEM, RC and all the other creatures. And to start heating up, I leave you with this nice picture of what a Google.com search gives in China, without VPN or proxy or any other special device. This has remained exactly the same in the two years I have been monitoring. There is no real technical reason why Google does not apply SEM here, it must have negotiated with the government when they first came to China, and the CCP must have bought that all Chinese would go to Google.cn. Click to continue »

Google vs. China: some Funny Stuff

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Some images of the battle of the decade, the non-evil corporation Google against the dark forces of the commy government of China. Below the logo on Google.cn today. Clearly, the big G is sending a message to the Chinese: we respect you, we dig your ancient culture, it is just the disgusting authorities of your country that we don’t like. Those of our own country, on the other hand, are pretty cool…

image

But even more wierd is the logo appeared on Google.com: Happy holidays. It is 14 January today, still one month to go for the holidays in China. And I don’t know of any other place where it is holidays today. Does this mean: happy holidays to the GFW and the Net Nanny? A very very long holiday is what those 2 deserve, and to never come back: NO, I get it now, it is Happy Holidays to the employees, G has sent all its Chinese employees on leave and dedicates the logo to them. Sweet!

image

But the funniest thing by far I have seen today is this video that was circulating on twitter (thanks Tom!). This is China humour, I will explain it for those who don’t live here: Baidu is the only successful Chinese website that is not completely cluttered with the Wall of Characters and intrusive adverts in the style of the Chinese internet. Why is that? Because Baidu itself is from the start an obvious imitation of Google. The title of the video is: What will happen to Baidu when Google leaves China?

And the quote of the day:

Baidu it and you’ll know, Google it and you’ll know too much…

(from a Chinese tweet, translated by a commentator on the CMD)

UPDATE: another funny article here:

The last great battle of our time was underway last night as Google and China began fighting for control of every living thing on the face of the Earth. A fragile truce between the world’s two biggest powers collapsed as Google accused China of reneging on a deal which would see the search giant control North and South America and those parts of Africa where people can afford netbooks…

Google vs. China: All the possible WHYs?

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

GmailI know, there are other news in the World, and I am probably not paying enough attention to them. But I can’t help it, I’ve been overclocking for the last 48h trying to understand Google’s decision, I have read every single article appeared on the internet since. And I still don’t get it.

I want to make this a collaborative page, I will keep it on top and I would appreciate comments with clues and POVs I might have missed. The objective is to come up with reasonable hypothesis and then cross out the wrong ones. I will also add interesting bits of info below as they come out:

Hypothesis: Why did Google stand up to the CCP? (UPDATES Below)

Business: We have seen that, with the info in hand, the decision doesn’t make sense from a pure business perspective. Who knows, you might say, perhaps the goodwill earned in the West will end up compensating for the loss of China, perhaps democracy will come soon. Yes, que sera sera. But that’s not how decisions are taken in business. There is a profit and a risk to consider, and when the gain is so uncertain and the loss so clear, it doesn’t make business sense. More on this below.

Ethical: Yes, “don’t do evil”, I know. Hello, all the corporations today have CSR and ethical codes, mine too, even if it is not as cool as Google. But really, a company doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t respond to notions like love or ethics. Only people do that. And, in the case of Google, only Page, Brin and Schmidt have that kind of power. Did they suddenly get pangs of conscience and decided to follow their own principles at any cost? Some already suggest this might have been a personal decision influenced by Sergey Brin. More on the personal hypothesis below.

Checkmate: Google has some information about the Chinese industrial espionage activities that is still undisclosed, with evidence that would compromise the CCP, and possibly push it against the wall in some WTO proceeding. The victims include dozens of Western companies, and the crime is so outrageous that all those countries would be forced to stand up to the CCP as well. This could be Google’s ace in the hole, and it would explain the style of their blog post. This is the only winning hypothesis for the G. It deserves strong consideration, based on the premise that the 3 leaders of Google are Very Intelligent Guys.

Legal: The muddled style of the message and the bad moment chosen (we should be speaking of Nexus One right now!) makes me think that there might have been some pressing matter that pushed Google to do this. Like we said, the same goodwill could have been obtained by simply uncensoring Google.cn without writing a public accusation to the CCP. Is this a move to deslegitimate the Chinese system and avert an upcoming Chinese lawsuit? Did some of the activists threaten to sue Google for the leaks, or was it the Chinese authorities that were getting dangerous? Google Books? Porn on Google Images?

Political: We saw as well that the most likely political outcome is an increase of censorship in China, a net loss for the employees of Google and the Chinese netizens, and perhaps even a rise of nationalism and protectionist policies. There is no way that this move is going to help the Chinese in the short term.  Even if there was: it is not and it can not be the role of a public company to actively engage in politics hand in hand with the US government. Need I remember anyone that the US government is today responsible for evil as severe as the CCP? More news here.

IP Protection: Google might have decided to force its way out of China because really it has detected some theft of IP so severe that it puts in danger the whole business. It is hard to believe that Google is unable to hide its own IP from the Chinese government. We are speaking of the same government that couldn’t even come up with a decent filtering software last year. Let’s just say this option is unlikely. Update: this hypothesis is stronger after rumour of a CCP mole, see Update 2 below.

Conspirational: Google has something to hide. It is something very big and very very weird, like E. Schmidt is an alien, or an irrecoverable bug has been found on Larry’s algorithm, or a Google databank in the US has been held by AlQaida and… and all this noise is just to distract our attention. This would be consistent with the quick messy post at the Google blog.

Personal: Larry Page and Sergey Brin are among the most admired persons in the universe, they are the Gods of the internet. They achieved that at a very young age, and they have spent the last decade sitting on the Google Search cash cow and freely recruiting the best intelligences in the World to conquer the internet and get more universal love than Jesus Christ. Their egos are shooting through the Googolplex roof, and they have decided to bring democracy back, coz them other CEOs don’t know how to act. Girl.

Macroeconomic: Google has obtained insider info on the financial position of some Chinese Banks and the superhuman brains of P and B have come up with a new algorithm predicting that the Chinese system is going to collapse tomorrow. They leave while they are still in time, collecting bonus World goodwill and defying a CCP that will not be there this time next year anyway…

Various/Spectacular: From Daily Beast via BoingBoing: “the reason they know it’s the Chinese government behind these attacks is because Google gave them the key”, “Your entire life, as stored on Google’s servers, may now be there for the taking.” and “Google is attempting to create a distraction.”  Also from Posner in Daily Beast: The Red Menace is back, Google thwarts China’s plan to control the World with an army of hackers.

UPDATE: Danwei has collected some informations regarding the low profit that Google is getting in China. This would give some weight to the Business option above. However, it still doesn’t make any sense. They could have just uncensored Google.cn, get sent away with all the PR hoopla, and all the while not cross the CCP too much with the public accusations of email hacking. Because there is ABSOLUTELY no business interest in Google forcing things in a way that even Google.com and all the G services will be blocked. China can do that easily with the GFW.

UPDATE 2: The moles theory. ESWN translates from anonymous Chinese blogger claiming insider info: Google trusts its employees and gives them access to all the codes, suddenly discovered one  of the employees is actually a CCP mole who’s been passing information, not only about activists but also Google’s own IP (actually from the initial G’s post it is not clear which of the two problems has moved Google).

Rings true to me, and explains why all employees in China are being sent on holidays. And yet, this doesn’t change much the situation. Wasn’t it pretty obvious that Google had CCP spies all along? Every company here has members of the CCP working in it, mine as well. And it is difficult to believe G was so naive as to not take precautions against this.

Moreover, the kind of people that work in Google are the best of the best universities, a high percentage of those people are members of the party here. The surprising thing would have been that there was NO moles in Google China.

I don’t think the big deal is the mole. Whether the hacks were done through moles or through other means is secondary, what is essential to the issue here is the Magnitude of  the IP theft, and the Evidence G has, and possibly the other Companies involved.  For the POLL, this theory is included in the IP Protection option above.

UPDATE 3: (h/t CDT) Newsweek interview Eric Schmidt: Decision based on values, not business. Mentions monitoring of dissidents, not technology  IP theft. Says Google’s IPO specified Google would be different, maximizing profits was not the objective of Google Inc, so no responsibility to the shareholders.

But why why why? Why such a bad form? They could have done it more smoothly, and avert the risk of being completely banished from China. And why now, when the treatment of dissidents is known in China for years? Does it make any difference if hacks are done through a mole in Gmail or through Baidumail once Google is gone? And wouldn’t the right thing be to fight, and encrypt the email better, and give those dissidents a much needed support to stay alive?

Feel free to suggest other hypothesis, or else just vote below: 

(POLL IS CLOSED)

Why do you think Google is leaving China?

  • Business (26%, 24 Votes)
  • Checkmate (26%, 24 Votes)
  • Personal (15%, 14 Votes)
  • Political (15%, 14 Votes)
  • IP protection (14%, 13 Votes)
  • Ethical (14%, 13 Votes)
  • Various/Spectacular (7%, 6 Votes)
  • Macroeconomic (5%, 5 Votes)
  • Conspirational (5%, 5 Votes)
  • Legal (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 91

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Google and China (3): Some updates

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

imageThere has been very little new information today and most of the media and the blogosphere is turning around the same ideas, many of them mentioned already in the previous 2 posts of the series.

Here are a few interesting new points I have gathered that I think are worth commenting:

  • There has been a call by H. Clinton to China to explain the hacking claims of Google. And in the same interesting article we read that Eric Schmidt participated last week in a dinner with her to discuss how technology can be used to promote democracy.
  • Google has now started taking measures, and already all the Gmail accounts are encrypted, as far as I know in the whole world, you can check your account and see the address bar now starts with https.
  • However, as of my own tests 5 minutes ago, there is no evidence that the search service in Google.cn has changed. I have a good point of comparison because I did similar searches in an experiment last year. You can look up things like 08宪章 (political document charter 08) and you will see the Manipulated Results, exactly like last year, with the FM message and all.
  • In the only article that Xinhua has published about this, there is one quotation by a professor Guo of a Shanghai university: “the Google case was a reminder to the government that Internet supervision could be more moderate and smarter”. Never thought I would read that in Xinhua. (thanks to kaplanpop for the tip)
  • The actions of Google have gathered a lot of support from Chinese netizens. However, this must not be taken at face value for a survey of Chinese opinion. The large majority of Chinese of course have not even heard about this, and if they have, they have no idea why it is a big deal that foreign company Google may leave China.
  • The stock market still has not decided if the PR points gained in the West are worth the business lost in China. The G shares are down  just 1.4% right now. On the other hand, investors have little doubts about Baidu who is up 13,5%. I bet some copycat in the B offices is already starting to plot how to offer an online BDocs, BMaps, BCalendar, Bmail, Bwave and even Bphone to the Chinese…

    What is going on with Google (2): consequences

    Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

    images_thumb[11]Following the previous post about Google and China, here are my reflections regarding the foreseeable consequences of all this. First of all, an important clarification: I don’t think fighting against censorship is bad. Censorship in China is very real, it is a disgrace not only for activists but for most honest Chinese, and it only serves the purpose of self-preservation of the CCP.

    Having said this, in the previous post I criticized Google for this decision because I think the form is wrong, and the method chosen for this fight is wrong, and more importantly: the Leader of this fight should not be a corporation, much less a Western corporation going solo into politics.

    On the other hand, if it was a pure business calculation I think it is wrong as well,  in the long term it does not make business sense, and the growing Chinese market is likely to live much longer than any goodwill earned for this.

    The more I look at the message, the more it looks like a mistake, a young idealist Googler that has escaped the supervision of his boss. What authority does this blog really have to speak for the company? the message is legit, as commentators have proven below.

    In any case, here are some consequences I foresee, again in fast bullet points:

    • The way the message has been drafted, chances for Google.cn to remain are slim. It will be very difficult for Google to step back from this, the whole tech World is going nuts about it. On the other hand, it is even more difficult for the Chinese authorities: even if they were willing to accept Google’s conditions (which they are not) they could never allow a Western company to publicly force their policies. Unless there is some kind of recanting, Google.cn is doomed.
    • The Chinese authorities can do more than forcing Google.cn out. If things go sour they are also very likely to GFW block* the whole Google.com, in which case the situation would be even worse than pre-Google.cn in 2006. Google could totally disappear from China and say goodbye to a fast growing 20% of the World’s internet users. This includes the phones and any other Google product.
    • I maintain that the decision is BAD in business because consumers have very bad memories, and the goodwill gained in one day, however massive, does not last. How many companies go bust for accusations of child labor? In a few months nobody will remember this move, and Google will find itself down 20% potential market and with nothing in exchange.
    • Baidu is going to go up even more, and some other Western opportunists as well.  The search service of Baidu is demonstrably worse than Google, and the Chinese internet users will be the first victims of an impoverished service. The already noted Divide between China and the West will be further increased, and this can only be bad for the Chinese, and bad for Human Rights, and bad for the World.
    • Regarding the bigger political picture, all this is unlikely to have any effect on American or Chinese policies unless there are many more Western companies that join Google. But no other company is going to join a crusade to bring goodwill to Google, and the move will just leave superficial scars in the CCPs internet reputation, which they will be able to heal in no time with some little doses of nationalist balm.
    • Regarding the stock market, the media has noted that Google is down 1.77%, but that is not significant in a day when the whole Nasdaq was down 1.35%. Note that Baidu fell 3.51% after my yesterday’s post, and probably the impact on Google will be seen today when the market opens. I am quite happy that I got rid of my Bs yesterday to buy some Gs, and today I am getting rid of the Gs again to get back the Bs. This has to be a winner move!

    *Note: Servers outside of China (google.com) get blocked by the GFW, servers within China get bullied by the Nanny. Two completely different processes with a similar result. More here.