Why Google India killed Orkut site?
By Ria Sharma
When Google went public in 2004, its brilliant founders Segey Brin and Larry Page spoke about their idealism in the IPO document: “Don't be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served-as shareholders and in all other ways-by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.”
While Google has enriched our lives in millions of ways, its shiny idealism is looking less bright when rubbed against the cold, hard politics of markets like China and India. Techgoss had reported earlier how Google India had cooperated with the authorities in handing over information about Indians who had criticized our freedom heroes and even Sonia Gandhi.
Did these Indian dissidents cross the lines of robust civil discussions allowed in democracies? The public can never make up its mind because Google just removed their sites as soon as it got a court order.
Google is the best search engine in the world and so it is not surprising that it has about 70-80 percent of the Indian market. Indian polity and even many of our citizens do not want to have American style free speech where nothing is sacred. For many Indians, and rightly so, their Gods and Gurus are sacrosanct. There are other lines which many Indians do not want crossed.
The Indian media, unlike their American counterparts, treats Google India gently. Google India has yet to work with any Indian media house to explain its actions.
But Google changes the rules when one of America’s most powerful newspapers Wall Street Journal is doing an article. Google India even told Wall Street Journal how they had voluntarily ejected an Orkut site with some comments critical of the late Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Reddy, who tragically died in a helicopter crash.
Wall Street Journal reported
In September, lawyers at Google Inc.'s New Delhi office got a tip from an Internet user about alarming content on the company's social networking site, Orkut. People had posted offensive comments about the chief minister of India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh, who had died just a few days earlier in a helicopter crash.
Google's response: It removed not just the material but also the entire user group that contained it, a person familiar with the matter says. The Internet giant feared the comments could heighten tensions at a time when thousands of mourners of the popular politician were emptying into the street.
But there are limits on what Google is happy to share with even Wall Street Journal. The American newspaper reported that Google did not want to reveal what revenue it earns from India. Google also declined to provide any data on the proportion of complaints that result in content removal.
If you read the Wall Street article, you will clearly see that Google has provided lots of background information to Wall Street Journal in an attempt to explain its position.
Are some Indians on the internet uncouth and abusive and deserve to be ejected? Yes. Is Google India justified in punishing the entire user group by ejecting everyone because a few commentators behaved like animals? Not in my view.
Even though this was an Indian news item and Orkut is as big as Facebook in India, an American media organization first published the story. Hopefully, the Indian media will now pick up the news for more public debate and discussion.
While Google is a very democratic, open organization, it will have to be held more accountable to ensure it does not become evil. Public debate and discussion is the only way.