CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Lessons to be learned from Google

Censorship is a word media houses hate to hear. But it is also true that no media in the world can claim to have total editorial freedom. They are all to some extent controlled by one or the other of powers that be. 
 
The reentry of tech giant, Google, into the Chinese market was the big news that topped the media discussions in the first week of August. It was in 2010, that the United States (US)-based Internet services and search engine company decided to scrap its operations in mainland China after it discovered it had come under cyber attack from within the country. Google found that the Gmail accounts of a number of Chinese human rights activists had been hacked. 
 
The message was clear: if Google wanted to do business, they had to abide by local laws which can include restrictions on speech. Google, which had begun operations in China in 2006, decided that the most ethical option was to offer some services—albeit restricted by censors—to the enormous Chinese market, rather than leave millions of Internet users with limited access to information.
 
But when it began come under government censorship and scrutiny, Google deemed that Beijing’s content filtering directives unacceptable and it decided to pull out raising the issue of freedom of speech. But they soon realised that they were giving up access to an enormous market, with more than twice as many people on the Internet in China as there are residents in the US! 
 
The number of Chinese Internet users is growing at a rate that far surpasses that of any other country. Having missed out on the China market for eight years, Google is now said to be readying a filtered search engine specifically for that market. Given the sheer size of the country and its nearly 1.4-billion-strong population, the giant global corporation is ready to be extra-flexible with the regulations of Chinese authorities just to get a chance to operate with the market. 
 
But of course, Google is not the only international company to do that. Apple, Facebook, Twitter et al have done this in China already, although Facebook is not yet operational in the Mainland. Then again, China is not the only country to impose media censorship in the world either. Many Middle Eastern nations have strict laws regarding media operations. Hence, does it really matter if they strike a deal even if it means working under scrutiny? 
 
Google’s intentions are specifically business and profits for sure. But there are lessons to learn from this bargain! Doing business is a give and take. Withdrawing from the market is not an option. Even if one does not agree on everything of the other party, work on areas where both can agree. Even Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un struck a deal despite their differences.
 
Perhaps the world is showing the Church how to move forward in its relationship with the Mainland. The gospel says, “And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.  For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light” (Luke 16:8). jose