What philosophical principle did Google’s managers adopt when deciding that the benefits of operating in China outweighed the costs?ANSWER 1: Google’s mission as an Internet search engine is to provide the most complete search results possible. The company’s guiding principle “don’t be evil” means that it should never, for any reason, comprise its results. The company takes numerous steps to ensure the integrity of its results. For example, paid links are listed on a sidebar rather than within its main search results. Prior to its investment in China, Google had been serving the country from the United States. However, when it became apparent that China was blocking access to certain politically sensitive sites, and redirecting users to its own search engine, Google made the decision to enter China directly. The company reasoned that while it would not be able to maintain the integrity of its search results, it would be able to provide better information to users than if the company continued to serve the country from the United States. Many students will probably agree that Google’s decision is in line with a utilitarian approach to ethics in that the decision to invest, even if certain sites were blocked, was more desirable than continuing to allow Chinese users to have even less complete search results. In other words, it was the best possible balance of good consequences over bad consequences.QUESTION 2: Do you think that Google should have entered China and engaged in self-censorship, given the company’s long-term mantra “Don’t be evil”? Is it better to engage in self-censorship than have the government censor for you?ANSWER 2: When Google entered China, it was between a rock and a hard place. China offered the opportunity to make tremendous profits, yet it also meant that the company would have to compromise a key guiding principle. Most students will recognize that Google has an obligation to do what right for all of its stakeholders. In this case, the company was obliged to be financially responsible to its shareholders, and at the same time, provide good service to its customers. Google believed that even if the Chinese government continued to censor search results, it could provide better service to users by investing in the market, and at the same time generate bigger profits for shareholders. While many students will probably agree with Google’s decision, other students may wonder whether Google, having violated its own guiding principle, will be tempted to do so again in the future when “the benefits outweigh the costs.”4-18
Chapter 04 - Ethics in International BusinessQUESTION 3: If all foreign search engine companies declined to invest directly in China due to concerns over censorship, what do you think the results would be? Who would benefit most from this action? Who would lose the most?ANSWER 3: This question will probably generate significant discussion. Some students will probably suggest that if all companies decline to invest, China may be forced to remove its censors.
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- Summer '13