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The business ethics of Google building a censored search engine for China




People use computers inside the Google China headquarters building in Beijing on January 14, 2010.
People use computers inside the Google China headquarters building in Beijing on January 14, 2010.
LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images

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Eight years after Google pulled out of China because of concerns over censorship and hacking, the internet giant is now reported to be working on a search engine for the country that would block access to search terms and websites blacklisted by Xi Jinping’s government.

It’s unclear if China would take Google back, but this project has drawn criticism from certain human rights groups who feel that the company would be complicit in China’s censorship.

Has anything changed now, versus eight years ago? What are the ethical and business considerations behind Google’s decision?

We have reached out to Google and they did not get back to us in time for the program but they provided us with this statement: 

We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com. But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.

Guests:

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporter for the New York Times covering technology, based in San Francisco; he tweets @daiwaka

Ian Maitland, professor of business ethics at the University of Minnesota; he also teaches at the school’s MBA Program in China