This week, Google (GOOG) shockingly announced it will disobey the Chinese government and (after 4 years) refuse to censor searches on the web. Although the company said it will be discussing the matter with Chinese officials, they are prepared to give up google.cn and even close offices in China.
From a monetization standpoint, Google is choosing to forgo monetization of censored search in favor of the democratic ideal of free speech. Those of us fortunate to live in countries with legally protected speech rights can empathize with Google’s decision. As Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Apparently, he was speaking on behalf of at least some legal entities as well.
China’s leading search company Bidu (BIDU) shot up over 13% on the news. This may be nice for investors, but just think how much the stock would have soared had China given Bidu a legal monopoly over all web search in China? We may even start reading about a new white-hot pairs trade: long fascism, short democracy.
Although some people are disappointed with Google’s stand, I applaud the move. Google makes billions of dollars and provides an excellent livelihood and income to many people. If we learned anything from the recent global credit and housing debacles, we may have learned there’s a healthy boundary where we value more important things than the game called business.
In the case of Google, I’m glad to see they’ve drawn that line in front of possibly the most important human right. Since we value the Constitution more than economic transactions (at least in theory) in the US, I think Google’s move is a patriotic one and a great example for others aspiring to add value to societies across the world.