Notes on Media

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Just another weblog. Lasse Bo Timmermann.

Internet Politics

Who Google is according to Google
Google’s announcement to no longer support the state imposed filtering of the Chinese version of their search engine has created quite a buzz recently. Despite many tech bloggers, who are celebrating Google’s step as a heroic act for freedom and human rights, there are some more serious thoughts around as well. An interesting article on the issue, titled The Google Republic has been published by Die Zeit. They point to the fact that Google’s step can be seen as an example of companies applying pressure on nation-states to enforce their goals. This step that can be very well related to the activities undertaken by United Fruit Company (Chiquita) to achieve their goals in Central America and lead to the term Banana Republics – therefore The Google Republic. Siva Vaidhyanathan’s argument is even more forthright in that he writes that Google governs the Internet, just because no state is willing to take that role. He further states that

[o]ne could read this showdown (as I do) as a classic international power conflict between a major traditional state and a new, virtual state: the Googlenet.

Thus, the step Google took is probably more than just clever PR or the heroic support of the human rights. It more seems as if it is the first move towards a new kind of politics. The rise of Google to the status of a quasi-state, pointed to in the Zeit article, indicates a potential development. Although their view of the nation-state as transparent and acting solely for the good of its people is rather romantic, it still is and important hint that we have to ask ourselves how desirable this trend is. A deeper implication might be a conflict between the models of a traditional state and the virtual state of Google. A redefinition of the traditional model provides great chances to change things for the better, but also bears specific dangers. A positive result of the recent announcement could thus be a more intensive debate about the future of politics with the Internet.

Filed under: Censorship, China, Google, Internet, Politics