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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Not Creating Content. Just Protecting It.

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Should we be surprised that the biggest fight over freedom of expression in years involves Google, a company that produces algorithms rather than articles?

Probably not.

Google executives struck a blow for free speech in China last week when they announced they were moving their service to Hong Kong after a series of mounting conflicts with the government over the privacy of its users and the free flow of information.

That would seem to put Google in league with newspapers, television news divisions and other outlets that look to protect information from government control. But no, Google insists, it is definitely not a media company.

“We are not interested in owning or creating content,” the company says whenever the subject comes up.

But regardless of how it defines itself, Google has come to grips with its role as both enabler and protector of the global exchange of information. After making several business moves that gave many observers pause—including what many saw as a land grab in books and its dealing with Chinese authorities in the first place—Google made a decision that represents an opportunity for the company to walk its talk about not being evil.

From The New York Times
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