The case study is titled Google Inc., In china, written by Kirsten E. Martin for the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics. Kirsten Martin is the Assistant Professor of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America and Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics Fellow, “to encourage classroom discussion and not to illustrate effective or ineffective business decision making”. Kirsten is an academic, whose purpose is to examine ethical decisions and behavior in business, creating a bias to enhance the ethical situations related to business practice.
The Catholic University was established in 1887 and is located in Washington D.C. Its values are more conservative, and emphasize charity and community-based values, as the Catholic Church is a strong proponent of helping the community. Also, being located in D.C. it is likely biased to be much more politically involved and influenced by the location.
Her background in economics may also lead itself to bias assessing how Google could do greater good for the economy through their business, making her ethical evaluation more stringent. Her involvement with the Business Roundtable and more specifically their Institute for Corporate Ethics illustrates her belief that corporations have an obligation to be good citizens: morally, environmentally, and be proactively ethical. She would need to have complete knowledge of the major business environment differences in China to evaluate the ethical standards of their society without prejudice as well.
She also likely lacks real world experience of operating a business as large as Google, and the pressures to manage all of the stakeholders needs; including shareholders desire to maximize profits. Ultimately, she has a very compelling bias to highlight any ethical behavior positively and negatively for further educational analysis.
A.2. My perspective3 as the analyst:
¶ My perspective is that of a daily user of Google and a student at Portland State University, School of Business Administration. I have some background knowledge of this case that are part of my personal beliefs and perspective. I believe in freedom of speech and oppose censorship. However, there are grounds for censorship that I feel are criminal and unethical which should be removed for legal, moral, and ethical reasons.
I do not have an ideological belief that everything should be published and protected within free speech. That being said the things that cross that barrier are outlined well in US law and even more harshly abroad (abuses to children, women, etc.). Although many things are horrific, it is a dangerous subject to define what should be censored and not. In this case I understand the Chinese government censors subjects and manipulate the truth, this is not censoring to uphold the moral fibers of their society but their regime, and total control over the information provided to their society.
I live in a liberal region of the US and have many freedoms that make it difficult for me to truly understand not having some of the basic rights I take for granted. I have not traveled the world nor have a deeper knowledge of other cultures or how the fabrics of their societies are woven into their economics and business ethics. My last perspective bias is that business should be a positive influence on society as a whole and follow the same moral and ethical standards that humanity as a whole need to follow. Although, there are different cultural values and legal systems around the world as we become a global economy and society we must define and support businesses that uphold the strongest moral beliefs and ethical standards.
B. State what you are bracketing:4
¶ I have some knowledge of the students protest in Tiananmen Square that is sure to come up in this case, and the censorship that the Chinese government supports. The brutality that happened from the protests and the total denial of the Chinese government will be set aside during my analysis. I have also completed an ethical assessment of Yahoo! disclosing personal information to the Chinese government for political adversaries that were promoting democracy, and imprisoned one individual for 10-years.
Yahoo! broke their confidentiality policies, and payed an undisclosed amount to the wife of the man imprisoned. I will bracket my knowledge and assessment of how the Chinese government used threats to obtain the information. Also, I have read that Google has supported censorship to initially enter the market in China, and has a near monopoly over the internet search engine market.
This monopoly can lead to overconfidence and complacency both of which lead to bad ethical situations. I have friends that work for Google and have heard very positive opinions regarding their corporate culture regarding their employees; this positive information has influenced my opinion of Google as well. I will bracket my opinions of the author and carefully examine her argument and facts. Moreover, I will bracket all opinions and information that I have regarding Google and the Chinese government.
II. The Situation5:
A. List the facts6 relevant to the issue(s) identified:
1998 Google Inc. was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin Mission is: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Motto is: “Don’t be evil”. Not to accept sponsored search results, like their competitors. 2000 Entered the Chinese market, by creating a Chinese-language version of its homepage that was housed in the US and not subject to Chinese laws. 2002, September Google.com was inaccessible for two weeks. When reinstated it was slow and temperamental for all Chinese users and completely inaccessible for Chinese universities.
“The average time to download a Google Web page was more than seven times slower than for Baidu, the leading Chinese search engine.” 2004 realized they were losing market share to Baidu, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, because of their local presence, because they are licensed within Chinese borders, due to self-censorship. 2005 announced two important appointments: Dr. Kai-Fu Lee (left Microsoft) whose goal was, “To make advanced technology accessible and useful to every user, as well as be part of the vibrant growth and innovation in China today.”
Also, Johnny Chou, who assisted in building sales and distribution as well as a R&D center in China so Google would have the assets needed to succeed. 2005 they had 5,680 employees scattered throughout the world. With positive cash flow of $3.45 Billion. 2006, January announced the creation of Google.cn, which is located in China and subject to Chinese filtering: Keeping sensitive information outside China through Gmail, and Blogger Disclosing the presence of general filtering to users
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