Google helps suppress free speech in China, and other countries


We have come a long way from Google’s early motto of  “Don’t be evil”.

Google is now developing a search engine for China to help that authoritarian regime suppress freedom of speech.

Li Yuan and Daisuke Wakabayashi, “Google, Seeking a Return to China, Is Said to Be Building a Censored Search Engine,” New York Times, August 1, 2018.

This makes public what appears to have long been Google’s policy of facilitating censorship in many countries under the pretext of complying with local laws.  Googleś motto of “Don’t be evil” was dropped when the holding company Alphabet was formed, in a restructuring which made Google one of Alphabet’s companies.

Consequently, human rights advocates need to understand that their adversaries include not only the Trump administration and its deemphasis on human rights, but also Alphabet and Google.

Laws need to be passed penalizing U.S.  based companies from aiding the repression of their populations  by authoritarian regimes. This would include companies that export technologies used to suppress human rights, including Google’s new search engine to facilitate Chinese censorship of free speech.

In the meantime, what can individuals and investors do?

A first step would be to boycott Google and other companies which have decided it is now OK to “be evil” in pursuit of profits and shareholder interests.

In short, a first step would be to not use the Google search engine or other Google or Alphabet products and services.

For investors, along the road of total divestment from Google and Alphabet, it is critical to refrain from making any new investments, in stock or otherwise, which these companies may seek now and in the future.

The South African divestment campaign got off to a slow start, but was ultimately successful.  The Google boycott and divestment campaign may also start slowly.  What is at stake, however, is freedom of speech and freedom of the press throughout the world.  Without these freedoms, other fundamental human rights may be violated by governments with impunity.

The stakes are in fact much higher than those in the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.