Boycott Google?I was very disappointed to learn that Google has agreed to censor its search results in China. So disappointed, in fact, that I'd like to send the company a message. The first option that comes to mind is a boycott of Google and its subsidiaries.
That's easier said than done. It would mean not just moving this blog (Google owns Blogger), but changing the way I search, read news, follow Usenet, send e-mail -- in fact, the vast majority of what I do online. The problem is that whenever I try an alternative to Google, it turns out not to be much good. And when I do find a non-Google service I like, it seems Google soon pops up and buys it. (I'm expecting bids for Wikipedia and LibraryThing any day now.) Furthermore, I have no guarantee that any other company would have cleaner hands. As the Reuters story I linked to above notes:
The voluntary concessions laid out on Tuesday by Google, which is launching a China-based search site as it officially enters the market, would parallel similar self-censorship already practised there by most multinationals and domestic players.
Homegrown giants like Sohu.com Inc. and Baidu.com Inc., along with China sites operated by Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft, all routinely block searches on politically sensitive terms such as the Falun Gong spiritual movement and Taiwan independence.
The company added that at least for now, it will stay away from e-mail and blogging in China, which have been the source of recent controversies after Beijing demanded information on an e-mail user from Yahoo, and Microsoft pulled down a politically sensitive posting from its China-based blog service.
A more important question is whether a boycott of Google would actually work. To be effective, any protest would need to cost the company more than it stands to gain from the China deal. Would that happen if a couple of non-paying users stopped using it? If 10,000 did?
Perhaps those best placed to change Google's mind are the company's shareholders. After all, at its initial public offering Google promised them 'not to be evil.' I think they have a right to feel ripped off.