Popping the Gubble

Glenn Reynolds wonders whether Google has peaked. Hard to say. It has the clear advantage of weight. But that’s not the point, really. It’s that not that it is big, it can disappoint many by its actions — in China, regarding news sources, and so on. Can a giant still be loved?

: And the related discussion about Yahoo in China continues. See more on Fred Wilson’s blog. And Michael Parekh objects to the tone of that discussion in the comments here. He says:

It’s when commenters like “Christian” on Jeff Jarvis’s post get personal as in this comment on Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel shows:

“Bottom line is Terry Semel is a plain fool.”

Utterly irresponsible and uncalled for comment, in my opinion.

If you’re going to have a debate, do so on the merits or de-merits of the issue. The moment the discourse slips into personal insults, the referee should call the player off the field.

For the record, I think it’s meaningless to rant about select internet companies’ behavior in places like China without thinking about the global context of these issues.

To complain about what Yahoo! and Google are doing there misses the larger point of what ALL multi-nationals from ALL countries doing business in China are doing to compete and succeed for their shareholders.

To pick one or two companies out for complaint seems grossly unfair and besides the point.

In my humble view companies like Yahoo! and Google have done noting wrong, and in fact are doing ALL the people of China a world of good by making better information and communications tools available.

They should be applauded.

I replied:

With all due respect, I think it is just as unproductive to dismiss the discussion as “meaningless” it is to dismiss Semel as a “plain fool.”

The important question here is about limits. Are there limits to what a company should do following the laws of the dictatorship in China? That is what we are trying to figure out. That is an important discussion to have.

So it’s legitimate, I think, to try to find that out via other examples. Would you say it’s OK for a company to have done business in apartheid South Africa, for example? Is it OK for a company to hand over users for exercising what all civilized nations recogize as the human right of free speech if that speech violates the propagandistic stranglehold of a dictatorship?

Just because other companies do it, that doesn’t make it OK, I’m sure you’d agree.

Let us, indeed, have this discussion on the merits.