Just Doing Business or Doing Just Business: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and the Business of Censoring China’s Internet

Abstract

This paper addresses the criticism recently directed at Internet companies who have chosen to do business in China. Currently, in order to conduct business in China, companies must agree to the Chinese government’s rule of self-censoring any information the government deems inappropriate. We start by explaining how some of these companies have violated the human rights of Chinese citizens to freely trade information. We then analyze whether the justifications and excuses offered by these companies are sufficient to absolve them of moral responsibility. We argue that both justifications and excuses offered are insufficient. Wilfully abiding by unjust laws, albeit necessary to do business in China, should not trump moral actions that protect rights.

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Correspondence to Gary Elijah Dann.

Additional information

This is not something we did enthusiastically, or not something that we are proud of at all.”– Elliot Schrage answering questions from Congress regarding Google’s decision to censor its Internet searches in China

Neil Haddow is currently finishing his PhD in philosophy at the University of Waterloo. His interests are moral and political philosophy at the theoretical and applied levels. He is the co-author of another paper forthcoming in The Journal of Business Ethics on age discrimination and automobile insurance.

G. Elijah Dann presently lectures for the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is author of After Rorty: The possibilities for ethics and religious belief (Continuum Press, 2006), and is editor of a forthcoming book on Christianity entitled, Leaving Fundamentalism (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007).

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Dann, G.E., Haddow, N. Just Doing Business or Doing Just Business: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and the Business of Censoring China’s Internet. J Bus Ethics 79, 219–234 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9373-9

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Keywords

  • China
  • corporate responsibility
  • ‘Don’t be Evil’
  • Google
  • Internet censorship
  • Microsoft
  • Yahoo!