January 27, 2006
How to make money without doing evil
Rebecca MacKinnon, one of the world's most prominent online rights activists writes on her blog, "Google has caved in," and says the action "contradicts its mission statement: 'don't be evil.'" On Thursday MacKinnon modulated herself somewhat, even noting that on the censored Google one can still find reports describing the recent events at Dong Zhou village, where police shot citizen protesters, as a "blood crime" or "massacre."
If Google made a mistake, it may have been to adopt its famous slogan ("Don't be evil") years ago, long before the possibility ever dawned on founders Brin and Larry Page that the company they were starting might one day have a market cap of $128 billion, as it does now. Evil is a strong word, and to spout such rhetoric rightly raises expectations that are now being disappointed.
But the reality is that no business that aims to make money -- as Google of course does -- can make decisions purely on moral grounds. Morality must be part of the calculus, but so must the interests of shareholders. Managing a modern business is increasingly a matter of juggling competing values and goals. Google continues to do a good job of this, in my opinion.
New motto: Don't be unprofitable. Creating a censored Google for China was a rational and responsible act for a commercial business.
This blog is not affiliated with Google.