Courage Returns to Google
"Courage takes many forms. There is physical courage, there is moral courage…. "So said the American sport Journalist Howard Cosell.
Around seven months ago my favourite Internet Company lacked even the basic courage to take a stand. Google, my absolute favourite, gave in to Chinese censorship early this year. Annoyed like many of its million fans across the globe I wrote a column titled "Goodbye Freedom - Shame on you Google".
This week has been rather wonderful. The old Google is back. The courageous one, the entrepreneur's dream, has taken a stand and showed the way for any new media company.
Kudos to Google - A Stand of Courage
The story is of Google Company Orkut, a popular social network site and the Brazilian authorities. Orkut is hugely popular in Brazil with over 16 million users, and about 72 per cent of them are Brazilians.
A Heinous Crime
The federal prosecutor's office in Sao Paulo alleged that several community pages on Orkut, have been used to organise criminal activity and promote child pornography.
The prosecutors want a federal judge to order Google to hand over user information on the Orkut pages that are being investigated for promoting crimes
The Google Stand
Google declined to share data saying that Brazilian laws are invalid in the US. According to Reuters, Nicole Wong, a spokeswoman for Google also said, "We have obeyed all the judicial orders that requested we remove undue content. Some orders demanded that we turn over user information for investigation and we complied."
The prosecutors want Google to pay a $61 million fine and asked that if it refuses to comply with its request, the Brazilian unit will be dissolved.
Crime and Punishment - Understanding the Cyber laws
Brazilian authorities have charged that Orkut deserves to be dealt with severely. The problem is invasion of privacy and lack of understanding of cyber economy. It isn't just Brazil that is facing this problem. India had its share of it as well last year when the eBay India chief Avneesh Bajaj was arrested because somebody allegedly sold a pornographic clip on his site ebay.in. Did the CEO need to be arrested for that? By the same definition should the Municipal Commissioner be arrested because some hawker somewhere in the city is selling something illegal? Or by the same definition should the President of India be arrested because he is the head of the state in which someone somewhere is committing some crime.
Cybercrime like any other crime is a serious crime. But when it comes to fixing the responsibility authorities falter.
In Orkut's case, Google clearly says it is ready to remove "undue content" and also assist in investigation, why then such a harsh punishment? For some wrong activity being done by a few, why should the privacy of the entire community of 25 million users be breached?
The Last Word - Kudos to Google
Seven months ago I had ended by saying, "Google, the only bastion of free speech. The thought leader. The innovators' God. Is this the way you "recognise the debt we owe to all those in academia whose work Google has made a reality".
A Googleless China would have been China's loss not Google's. Probably the bosses at Google bunked the strategy class to watch the Dragon's Feet." Didn't expect Google to sell freedom so cheap. Shame on you Google!
This week Google deserves kudos for not succumbing to pressure. It sure takes guts to take a stand such as the one it has taken when its 72% users are from that country.