According to reports, when Google exited China's search market yesterday, they redirected all of their traffic to an unrestricted search engine in Hong Kong. So search phrases like "Tiananmen Square" that were required by China to return ZERO results, for a short period showed links to information. Soon thereafter the Chinese government got a handle on the access from that site as well. And most of the links resulted in 404, page not found errors. Unlike the wikipedia entry for Tiananmen Square which goes into the protests of 1989 that shook the world as China nearly rolled a tank over a protesting civilian.
Other topics like Tibet were also under lock and 404 errors.
So today the huge world of China is no longer receiving Google's attention. Rather their government and the "do no evil" global force of Google have walked away from the table.
This is 2010 folks. Blocking Facebook and Twitter and Google will not keep the Great Firewall of China up and impenetrable. As techies did with Iran, when the crackdown comes, there are many who will lend a hand to reach back over the wall and restore connections. So China has made Google pull out of their country for now. And what do we lose?
The Huffington Post has a few beautiful photos of the loss, both ours and theirs.
Here are a few of the imagined consequences of the Google/China breakup.
1. The loss of connectivity with a huge population.
2. The loss of innovation that could be sparked by our collective voices.
3. The loss of revenue potential for Google.
4. Even more censorship and crackdowns behind the firewall.
5. The potential for political strain between the US and China.
I'm fairly sure that Google and China will both weather the storm. Google will continue to grow and innovate. China may continue to try and lock down the access to information. But as we've seen time and again, the information wants to be free.
From an information worker's standpoint I am saddened by the collapse. It is so much more total than the Iranian crackdown. And China continues to be a force in the world that thumbs it's nose at freedom of information. I am certain American businesses will have to cross this threshold repeatedly. It is not advisable to simply ignore a country so vast and rich. But if you have to compromise on your core values then you either put ROI ahead of human rights, OR you pull out. Neither decisions are simple.
I saw last week, how my small little freedom can be turned off, by a clueless company. And how disempowering that was as I struggled for less than 8 hours without email or blog access. I could still Tweet, FB and comment. But my VOICE was silenced. Imagine an entire country of BILLIONS and you get the picture.
[All images are courtesy of The Huffington Post. Original owners and photo credits can be seen on their site.]