, Volume 110, Issue 4, pp 469-479
Date: 09 Oct 2012

Business Under Threat, Technology Under Attack, Ethics Under Fire: The Experience of Google in China

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Abstract

Although not frequently regarded as controversial, digital communications industries continue to be sites of CSR conflicts, particularly internationally. Investigating CSR issues in the digital communications industry is pertinent because in addition to being one of the fastest growing industries, it has created a host of new CSR issues that require further attention. This case study examines an incident in early 2010, when Google Inc. China and the Chinese government reached an impasse that produced a large-scale, transnational conflict that reached a head ostensibly over state-mandated censorship, ultimately prompting Google to withdraw from the mainland Chinese market and redirect its activities to Hong Kong. We track Google’s experience in China, both to explore its strategies and to consider the implications for corporate social responsibility. We situate Google’s drastic decision to withdraw entirely from mainland China in the complex multiplicity of ethical, cultural, and political conflicts that affect this particular case. On a broader level, the incident raises the question of how multinational corporations (MNCs) can achieve corporate growth while negotiating the highly sensitive sociopolitical and institutional environments of foreign nations.