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Then and Now: The "Great Firewall of China"

This is part of a series of posts featuring earlier content from the Vital Integrities Blog along with updated information and opinions.

Here's an excerpt from a post that appeared in June 2009:
News out of China this week will now compel PC makers to choose between human rights and revenue. The Chinese government has announced that, beginning July 1 [2009], every computer sold in China must come with filtering software that blocks Internet access to "unhealthy words and images." China's rulers insist the program is intended to prevent access to pornographic Web sites; however, the software is capable of blocking other sites as well as tracking each person's Internet activity. What this means is that companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Apple will have to decide between having access to China's lucrative consumer market or standing up to censorship.
These are the situations that test a company's moral sensitivity. As we've seen, it's common for leaders to try to distance their organizations from sticky issues. Hey, who are we to tell China how to run their county? We just sell PCs. As Nike learned the hard way, that approach doesn't sit well with U.S. consumers who expect companies to do the right thing. But before they make the correct choice, leaders must recognize that a moral dilemma exists.
At least one company is exhibiting moral sensitivity when it comes to censorship in China. Defying Beijing authority, Google has stopped self-censoring its search engine in China and began routing its Chinese users to an uncensored Hong Kong site.

The bold move could prove costly to Google. Not only could China block the company's access to its 400 million Internet users, some of Google's business partners are disassociating themselves from the company (mobile-phone operator China Unicom Ltd. announced that it would no longer include Google search functions in new handsets). Even some of Google's employees in China are considering jumping ship. Yet company officials are willing to pay a high price for upholding American values.

Driving Google's defiance is Sergey Brin, the company’s 36-year-old co-founder who immigrated to the United States from Russia thirty years ago. Brin told The Wall Street Journal that Chinese censorship of Web content resembled the repression he witnesses as a small child. Having a part in helping Beijing suppress its citizens had become too great a compromise, he said.

"Ultimately, I guess it is where your threshold of discomfort is," Brin told the WSJ. "So we obviously as a company crossed that threshold of discomfort."

Moral sensitivity means recognizing that an ethical dilemma exists. Moral courage means standing up for your principles. Brin, and Google, are demonstrating both.
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