Earlier this week Fallows called Google's decision to discontinue China's censorship laws a "significant" move. He later aired an assortment of emails from China. Nick Carr contends that the company's move was based more on prudence than principle:
If Google had not, as it revealed in its announcement, "detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China," there's no reason to believe it would have altered its policy of censoring search results to fit the wishes of the Chinese authorities. It was the attack, not a sudden burst of righteousness, that spurred Google’s action. Google's overriding business goal is to encourage us to devote more of our time and entrust more of our personal information to the
Internet, particularly to the online "computing cloud" that is
displacing the PC hard drive as the center of personal computing.
The more that we use the Net, the more Google learns about us, the more frequently it shows us its ads, and the more money it makes. In order to continue to expand the time people spend online, Google and other Internet companies have to make the Net feel like a safe, well-protected space. If our trust in the Web is undermined in any way, we’ll retreat from the network and seek out different ways to communicate, compute, and otherwise store and process data. The consequences for Google's business would be devastating.
Jeff Jarvis is less jaded:
I know some will say that Google wasn’t doing that well in China anyway (it controls 31% of the market); they’ll ascribe cynical motives. But I say: Name one other company that finally said “enough!” and put ethic, morals, and company standards over its lust for the Chinese market. Not Yahoo. Not Cisco. Not Nokia. Not Siemens. Not The New York Times Company. Google has.