Twittering the Google-China Story
by Tony Kontzer
Few technology business stories have triggered the range of responses that Google's well-documented standoff with China has generated. The topic seems ideally suited to the Twit Digest treatment, in which I take some recent piece of tech-related news and view it through the Twitter prism--in other words, let's find out what the proverbial "man on the street" has to say.
We start with a user calling himself dustinwhittle: "Is Google and China about human rights/internet freedom or does Google seek a graceful exit from China and great PR around rights & privacy?" A fair question that deserves a fair answer. I don't believe Google wants a graceful exit from anything, but it's already getting great PR for its stance. What we've learned here that's of value is that a) China will go to great lengths to keep from having its human rights underbelly exposed, and b) Google has no trouble positioning itself as a champion of Internet freedom.
Moments earlier, a user calling herself sarahinthesen8 posted this: "Ironic that all the msgs (sic) re Google posted on Twitter & Facebook can't be viewed in China because twitter, FB and U-tube are all blocked." An astute observation, and a compelling argument for why Google's stand against China is so important. Think the folks at Twitter and Facebook are paying close attention? Hmmm?
My favorite wisecrack about the standoff thus far comes from Twitter user wilshipley: "ironically, Google didn't mail that letter to the Chinese govt (sic); they put it in their inbox and waited for China to steal it." Now that I think about it, maybe the whole thing was a setup from the beginning, and Google knew China wouldn't be able to resist the allure of compromising data about Chinese human rights activists being so tantalizingly close. Nah, not even Google would dare be that cagey with China--or would it?
Meanwhile, a groundswell of support is developing for more such stances, as indicated by this post from Twitter user Hopedoty: "Three cheers to Google for growing a pair with regard to their China policy. Here's hoping Yahoo and the like will soon follow." Somehow, I don't think that Hopedoty's "pair" was a reference to Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin.
Whereas some Twitter users are standing behind Google, others are fretting over the implications for the Chinese people. Take this post from user ladyorayne: "My concern is that no Google and no WoW in China = more difficult for people there to interact with outside world."
I agree that Google's absence would effectively limit Chinese Internet users' knowledge of the world beyond China, but on the matter of World of Warcraft, let me put it this way: I've known a handful of people who've gotten hooked on WoW, and I'd argue that blocking it would do more to encourage interaction with the outside world than just about any other action. In fact, if we really want to get the jump on China over the next 20 years, our best strategy would be to get as many of the youth there as possible hooked on WoW. They'll never see capitalism coming, until it's too late.
And with that, I step down off my soapbox and conclude this edition of Twit Digest. Until next time, you can find me Twittering at http://twitter.com/tkontzer.