The essay in hand describes, explains and discusses an ethical problem which the company Google has to face due to its expansion in China. It is explicitly focused on the period from January 12th to March 19th, 2010. Accordingly, things that happened after this date could have not been taken into account.
In a first step, the ethical problem of the company will be explained. After discussing in how far companies like Google do have social and moral responsibilities at all, three different ethical theories will be applied on the discussed case in order to evaluate the ethical conflict from different viewpoints. Finally, a recommendation, based on Google’s notion of ethics, will be given.
Google’s ethical problem in China
On January 24th 2006 Google unveiled its first search engine inside China and granted to play by government rules by censoring results of political sensitive queries, for example about Taiwanese independence, the Tiananmen Square massacres and democracy (Elgin, 2006; Kopytoff, 2006). This was also the time since when Google found itself in an ethical dilemma, stuck between its idealistic corporate philosophy of doing no “evil” and its business objectives of expanding in China (Kopytoff, 2006), which is by far the biggest and fastest growing market for internet technology, already having about 384 million Internet users today (Cho et al., 2010). As Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as its chief executive Eric Schmidt, have said explicitly and repeatedly in the past, that their biggest motivation is not to maximise profits but to improve the world (The Economist, 2007), its corporate governance was criticised as being hypocritical by many sides, especially by users and human‐rights advocates (Elgin, 2006). In response to these complaints Google admitted that it made some compromises to its core philosophy (Kopytoff, 2006). However, the company stated that providing a limited amount of information in China would be actually more consistent with the company’s vision than providing no information at all (Kopytoff, 2006).
After about four years which were affected by the Chinese government’s attempts to impose further limits on free speech on the web , Google announced that it is going to 1
“review the feasibility” of its Chinese business (The Economist, 2010). The crucial factor for this decision was, according to Google, a “highly sophisticated” hacking attack from within the country (Einhorn, 2010) as well as the repeated infiltration of Gmail accounts of human‐rights activists in China and other countries through “phishing” or malware on user’s computers (The Economist, 2010). Concretely, this review of the feasibility let Google announce that it will violate the terms of conduct for doing business in China by stopping to censor search results on its Chinese site (Lakshmanan, 2010). As it was clear from the beginning that it will be rather improbable of China to allow an uncensored search engine to be based on its territory, it was declared by Google that it might have to pull out of the country if no solution will be found (Einhorn, 2010).
A corporation’s responsibility
Before going into a deeper analysis of different ethical theories and its moral evaluations of the discussed case, it is essential to also take into consideration the discussion about in how far companies like Google actually do have moral and social responsibilities to the communities in which they operate. This is an important question as it is debatable if companies should ...