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Coro Fellows

As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

'Do no evil'

Q. With Google ending self-censorship in China, the company stands to lose significant market-share in an enormous and growing market. Does it make sense for even the biggest firms to challenge political systems? When is it right for leaders to put a principled stand on human rights in front of their organization's self-interest?

When has Google ever made rash decisions that ignored long-term consequences? Since its founding, Google's evolution has been strategic, cautious, and values based. During its infant stages in the dot.com era, Google built its infrastructure by obtaining engineers while other companies, such as Yahoo, invested heavily in marketing. After its initial public offering and rapid expansion, Google's reputation became synonymous with innovation, employee happiness, and its support of net neutrality.

Google's recent action against China does not jeopardize its self-interest as an organization. On the contrary, Google is one of the few entities in the world that can take such a stand on human rights without harsh ramifications. Google's livelihood and integrity as an organization depends on it.

Google's role as a business pales in comparison to the impact Google makes as a social entity. Google's reach goes far beyond American boundaries. The fact that 12 million Chinese citizens use Google Maps everyday is a testament to Google's influence on the daily activities of people worldwide.

The political world is much more perilous. Even the U.S. used caution during a recent meeting with the Dalai Lama for fear of economic or military retaliation. Despite the monumental importance of the Olympics for China, neutral entities such as the International Olympic Committee backed down when China broke its promise and restricted Internet access for media. Google, however, has grown strong enough to actually impose disciplinary actions against the Chinese without direct political ramifications.

When an organization has the capacity and courage to act on values that are fundamental to their operations, its leaders must act or risk undermining the group's purpose and foundations. If Google is an organization that believes in net-neutrality, stands for something greater than itself, and wants to continue to be a leader in world affairs, it has no choice but to strengthen its resolve and do no evil. --Jimmy Duong


Not human rights, business self-sovereignty

I've been Googling Google to see the newest of its many features: a chart displaying its service availability to mainland China in the last four days. Google has shocked the business and technology world by "pulling out" of censor-protected China, meaning it is now forwarding users to its Hong Kong servers.

Many characterize the hegemonic power of the tech world by its "Do No Evil" slogan. However, upon looking closely at Google's initial vision, its founders seek to "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." While much of the media point to the former slogan as the basis of the power play, one can see that the self-censorship policy simply doesn't align with their business vision. It is not necessarily a purely political decision. Neither is it about human rights--it's about the sovereignty to do business.

China's censorship policy conflicts with the Google vision to make information universally accessible and useful. Sure, there are political and human rights implications with the decision. But the company's vision highlights an emphasis on free information--their business service is a human right. As long as the company remains in line with their vision, politics and human rights will come along for the ride. Ball's in your court, Microsoft. --Parsa Sobhani


Push

By framing its coverage of Google and China as a power struggle, the media is missing the opportunity to gain an understanding of the deeper issue. Aside from the source of Google's motivation to stand up to China on censorship, Google has raised a bigger question. What does it mean to be a global citizen? And what are the pressures and implications of leading in an area where transparency is expected?

Multinational businesses have historically had to learn to work around the laws of the nations where they have conducted business, acknowledging that in order to inhabit another cultural climate, they may have to play by a different set of rules. Initially, Google tried to play by China's rules, but reached an impasse and couldn't do it anymore, resulting in the company cutting off services in China. Google is sending a very clear political message, not just about human rights, but about the increasingly global expectations of transparency and free information.

Google is pushing China where other businesses haven't been comfortable pushing. While Google may very well end up leaving China, their push isn't in vain. Google pushing the non-censorship issue is raising expectations of not only what it means to do business in other countries, but what it means to LEAD while doing so. --Miracle McClain

By Coro Fellows

 |  March 25, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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