Playboy, Google China & the Berkman Center



Despite the slip-up Google is moving ahead with its IPO. It was belived that Google may have violated securities rules by doing a Playboy interview. There is supposed to be a “quiet period” to avoid stock-hyping. Either way, Google has added the Playboy interview to its prospectus. In the interview, one of the Google founders, Sergey Brin, talks about how China blocked Google and mentions our OpenNet Initiative partners at the Berkman Center.

Concerning China’s blocking of Google, Brin says that he did not negotiate with the Chinese government to have Google unblocked, but that “popular demand” prompted the government to unblock Google. As others have observed, this contrasts with a statement made by Google at that time.

“We are currently working with Chinese officials to get our full service restored to the millions of Chinese users who depend on Google every day” –BBC

“We were notified by our users that access to Google was being blocked in China, and we currently are working with Chinese authorities to resolve the issue,” she [Cindy McCaffrey] said. – NewsFactor

Google Playboy Interview

[snip]

PLAYBOY: How did you respond when the Chinese government blocked Google because your search engine pointed to sites it forbade, including Falun Gong and pro-democracy websites?

BRIN: China actually shut us down a couple of times.

PLAYBOY: Did you negotiate with the Chinese government to unblock your site?

BRIN: No. There was enough popular demand in China for our services—information, commerce and so forth—that the government re-enabled us.

PLAYBOY: Have you ever agreed to conditions set by the Chinese government?

BRIN: No, and China never demanded such things. However, other search engines have established local presences there and, as a price of doing so, offer severely restricted information. We have no sales team in China. Regardless, many Chinese Internet users rely on Google. To be fair to China, it never made any explicit demands regarding censoring material. That’s not to say I’m happy about the policies of other portals that have established a presence there.

PLAYBOY: Which sites cooperate with Chinese government censors?

BRIN: I’ve heard various things, but I don’t want to spread secondhand rumors. There is a Harvard site that lists what you can and can’t get from different places around the world.

PAGE: Search for “censorship” and “Berkman” and you can get the website. [Editor’s note: The website is at cyber.law.harvard.edu/home.] It has some cool programs that automatically track what is and isn’t available on the web.

PLAYBOY What would you do if you had to choose between compromising search results and being unavailable to millions of Chinese?

BRIN: There are difficult questions, difficult challenges. Sometimes the “Don’t be evil” policy leads to many discussions about what exactly is evil. One thing we know is that people can make better decisions with better information. Google is a useful tool in people’s lives. There are extreme cases, we’re told, when Google has saved people’s lives.

[/snip]

Source: https://www.ipo.google.com/data/prospectus.html#toc59330_25b

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