Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Does It Matter Why Google Did It? The Real Point Is China's Appalling Internet Behavior.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.


Maybe Google finally went on the offensive against China to take focus away from a significant security breach.

Maybe the search giant did it because its business prospects in the hopelessly gamed and deeply corrupt Chinese market were negligible and dwindling fast.

Maybe Google got sick and tired of harassment from authorities and having to censor its results in order to operate.

And maybe, just maybe, Google’s top leadership finally decided to do the right thing after the ethically challenged compromises made in the past–in order to to do business in one of the world’s biggest economies–became too much to bear any longer.

I would guess that a little bit of all these things led to the announcement by Google yesterday that it had been under attack from–if you read between the very bright lines–Chinese government-sponsored hackers, that the company would no longer censor its search results and that it might pull its business out of China all together.

While a lot of the speculation so far has been about Google’s motives, real or imagined, it seems to me that the focus should sit squarely on how appalling the Chinese government behaves regarding the Web.

And more to the point, how it tries to pass off egregious censorship, vicious retribution of its critics using digital skullduggery and persistent violations of basic freedoms as justified by government policy and laws.

That canard is accepted by no one with any kind of conscience and falls flat in today’s increasingly transparent digital-centric world.

Still, few in Silicon Valley, which is knee-deep in lucrative Chinese Web investments, have ever done much in the way of protesting about the situation, even though the writing has been on the wall since China strong-armed Yahoo into releasing information about dissidents and then threw those courageous citizens in jail and threw away the key.

(Thus, one blog post noting that Yahoo’s withdrawal from the country and subsequent investment in Chinese Web company Alibaba meant that the Internet giant “played China far better than Google,” was utterly perplexing, given that it glossed over the key part regarding tragic victims of Yahoo’s cloddish missteps there. Let’s be clear: No matter how much money it makes, for that alone, Yahoo can never ever be called smart when it comes to China.)

Perhaps it is time to remember the late House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (pictured above), who lambasted Yahoo management then, calling its execs moral “pygmies.”

In another memorable hearing, the California Democratic congressman took a well-deserved whack at other tech companies for their lack of “social responsibility” and for caving to “Beijing’s outrageous but predictable demands” simply to garner more profits.

Here’s a video of the eloquent Lantos–himself a survivor of the Holocaust, so he knew exactly what he was talking about when he spoke of government suppression and abuse–at a hearing that included Microsoft (MSFT), Yahoo (YHOO), Cisco (CSCO) and, yes, Google (GOOG).

What he said then must have finally sunk in: “Your abhorrent activities in China are a disgrace. I simply don’t understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night.”

How far Google execs are willing to take this fight with China will determine how well they sleep in the future. But good for them for beginning this move, which is critical to the Web evolving globally as a free, unfettered and transparent force.

Most of all, we should only hope that Google’s actions spur other tech companies to try to change China the only way its government understands: By saying enough is enough regarding how China behaves in the digital community, and finding a “spine,” as Lantos called for, to actually do something that will make a difference.

Because, let’s be honest, enough was enough a very long time ago.

I urge you to watch this inspiring and pointed speech by Lantos in its entirety:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work