Google, Inc. is well-known for its slogan “Don’t Be Evil.” But two actions on the part of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and the company, respectively, are raising questions about Google’s ethics with regard to two countries not known for their support for fundamental freedoms: North Korea and China.
ABC News reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is using a visit to the hermit nation known for its totalitarian system of government and extreme poverty to improve the communist leader’s image and associate him with “high-tech” endeavors.
Key to that effort was Schmidt’s visit Tuesday to a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, which exists despite the fact that only a few thousand people in North Korea reportedly have access to the Internet. People whom ABC dubs “regular citizens” only have access to a domestic intranet system on which information is strictly controlled. North Koreans who post anything anti-North Korean on the system reportedly could face punishment as harsh as five years of hard labor in government-run camps.
Meanwhile, Google is also coming under fire for ditching a feature that “notified Chinese users when keywords they were searching for would trigger the country’s Great Firewall content blocking system.”
According to the Telegraph, Google did not tell its users of the change, which eliminated a feature that the Chinese government opposed, but which also enabled Google to preserve access to a huge market of which it currently only controls about 5 percent, simply by giving in to Chinese censors on a single point.
The U.S. State Department has chided Schmidt, an adviser to Obama whose fellow employees donated over $700,000 to President Obama’s re-election campaign, for the North Korea visit.
It is likely that Google will also attract criticism from some human rights organizations for abandoning the search feature in China.