Here is my response to James:
In December 2009 Google did nothing to stand up for human rights and against censorship besides mouth the same pretty words it always has.
In January 2010 Google threatened to break Chinese law, putting at risk a market of 100 million Google users, the safety of all Google employees in China, and all Google property in China.
What changed? Too much guilt? The Grinch heard the Hoos singing and his heart grew?
A serious business problem grew from something Google thought it could ignore to something it thought it could not ignore.
I want people to move away from the focus on free speech and human rights because those are OUR concerns. This is a complex and potentially Web-shattering move on Google's part. It was not taken lightly. To get a realistic picture of what is at stake we must get beyond the concerns of US liberals such as ourselves.
This is China, after all. And nothing Google does in terms of censorship of Web search is going to make one bit of difference to anyone suffering under Chinese oppression. Finding pictures of tanks just does not matter that much.
Google would not, should not, could not risk all that because it felt a bit icky about doing business with China. If it had, Google would have done this long ago.
Every corporation in the world mouths pretty words about being responsible and moral. Even tobacco companies do. Henry Ford was convinced he led a company from the moral high ground. There is no substance to claims of corporate responsibility short of marketing strategy.
Who is being unrealistic here?
and more a bit later:
Well, "all accounts" means taking Google blog posts at their words. I think we should have learned by now that Google's claims of benevolence merely serve its marketing goals. Whether they mean it or not does not matter. I don't see why we should buy it from Google when we don't buy it from Chevron.
What's in their hearts does not matter.
Motivations don't free dissidents. Neither do search results.
Google clearly does not want people to focus on the insecurity of their systems. That's why no company made noise about his until now. To distract from the vulnerabilities, Google made sure to make that empty pledge to offer uncensored search on Google.cn. Do you really think that is going to happen?
So getting back to my larger point: paying attention to the moral implications only makes Google execs feel better, makes us feel better, and fools us into thinking that such issues are of central importance to anyone with anything at stake.
The problem is that free speech is simple and understandable here in the US.
Internet security is complicated and boring to most people.
If we continue to focus on the so far empty gesture of wishing for uncensored search results -- and thus a clear violation of Chinese law -- then we miss the bigger story.
The bigger story will matter much more in the long and short terms. Can we trust the security of any online service? Are they all vulnerable to state hackers? How about non-state actors?
THAT is a big deal. If we don't focus on that we will be in much bigger trouble.
That's why I applaud Google for taking a stand for the Internet. The future of the Internet is at stake. Obviously, what is good for the Internet is good for Google.