Google & bing continue to play into good vs. evil caricatures

March 22, 2010

Google's official code of conduct contains “don't be evil” as a central principle1. And despite a few lapses, most of them related to privacy and censorship, it has played the role well in most people's minds. And on that last slip-up, it appears Google might finally redeem itself. An ugly war of words has erupted between the search giant and Chinese officials who allegedly hacked into political protestors' Gmail accounts. The incident escalated and Google decided it would no longer abide by oppressive Chinese censorship laws. The company now looks poised to leave the Chinese market for good2.
Microsoft on the other hand has no such policy. With the worst timing possible, a related and somewhat scandalous story broke from the Bing camp in the same week. While Google starting to stand up as a defender of human rights, it was discovered that Bing was going above and beyond the call of duty by censoring searches without being required to do so by law in those jurisdiction3. Specifically, the default search in Arab countries filters out, and effectively censors, searches related to homosexuality. By blocking lifestyle choice websites that most people from Montreal and the rest of the western would find to be harmless, bing has again played right into the role its detractors have cast for them.
Bing's market share in China barely registers in China. Therefore Microsoft had a “very little to lose” opportunity to make a memorable PR move and pull out from China like a champion. This would have made Google look hypocritical, and forced them to copycat Bing's policy, or face the possibility of seeing a large crack form in their feel good image. They did the exact opposite however, and made it clear they were staying in China4.
So alas for now both actors are staying in character and which means Google remains good, and Microsoft, evil.

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