Google moved quickly to announce that it would stop censoring its Chinese service after realising dissidents were at risk from attempts to use the company’s technology for political surveillance, according to a source with direct knowledge of the internet giant’s most senior management.
As the US intervened in Google’s challenge to Beijing, the source told the Guardian the company’s decision was largely influenced by the experiences of Sergey Brin’s Russian refugee background.
The Google co-founder “felt this very personally”, the source said. “The notion that somebody would try to turn Google’s tools into tools of political surveillance was something he found deeply offensive.”
The New York Times remains unsure whether Google departing China will mainly affect the Chinese people themselves:
“In the 20 years I’ve been doing this work, I can’t think of anything comparable,” said John Kamm, the founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, which has enjoyed remarkable success in encouraging China to release dissidents. Mr. Kamm, a former business leader himself, argues that Western companies could do far more to project their values.