May 19, 2008 |
When I first saw Mike Arrington's post about Google revealing the identity of an Orkut user to Indian officials (leading to an arrest) hit Techmeme yesterday, I knew it was going to stir a bunch of people up. Until the Monday morning Twitter stream started going full-blast, however, I didn't know how vocal the Google detractors were going to be. Google's alleged mantra "Don't Be Evil" gets used quite a bit whenever people don't agree with one of Google's moves, and I've used it myself in that regard. However, while I regularly rake Google over the coals, for once I'm firmly in their camp. Google wasn't being evil.
The prevailing mentality in the U.S. is that U.S. laws are the One True Law and the rest of the world should abide by them in some form of global agreement. I'm sure that given the U.S. government's tendency to reinterpret even the U.S. Constitution (Gitmo), there are many countries out there who are more than happy that they aren't subject to the laws of the U.S.
First, let's dissect the arrest, Google's involvement, and figure out what really happened. The alleged criminal, Rahul Krishnakumar Vaid, is an IT professional in India, an he was found guilty under section 67 of India's IT act, which states:
67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form. – Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeal to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.
The accused admitted that he posted the content to the Orkut group "I hate Soniya Gandhi." Note that neither the creator of the group, nor any other member of the group was arrested, only the one who posted content that was in clear violation of Indian law.
The U.S. is the same population up in arms over a Wikipedia image of an album cover used in most European countries, but banned here in the States, remember? We expect that our laws be honored in our country, but other countries' laws shouldn't be honored in theirs? Even here in the U.S. "free speech" only applies to being able to speak out against the government. It does not guarantee citizens the right to say whatever they want whenever they want, or yelling "Bomb" on an airplane wouldn't cause a problem, then, would it? We need to remember that not all other countries are evil, and that each country has its own set of laws that apply to their society. And if we expect foreign companies to abide by our laws, then our countries should abide by those of the countries they do business in. This wasn't a human rights violation issue like previous issues that companies have had in China; it was a violation of a law that Rahul Krishnakumar Vaid was surely aware of, especially since he worked in the industry.
Image credit: Sara Ascalon's parody of "Evil Google"