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Google Vs. the Government

The Situation's Tucker Carlson asks Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Vise, the author of "The Google Story", why the search engine is challenging the U.S. government, but going along with China's censorship of search results.
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Automobile giants Ford and Chrysler have kicked it in reverse lately, but there is one American company still speeding full steam ahead.  Google, the Internet search engine, has generated billions over the last several years, becoming a verb in the process.  The company has also become famous for its corporate slogan, “Don‘t be evil.”  But as it expands, can Google live up to its motto?

Recently Google has made news about refusing to comply with a Department of Justice subpoena for data about search requests on their site. Google also announced that it will be expanding into China.  What sort of censorship can they expect there?

David Vise, Pulitzer-Prize winning “Washington Post” reporter and author of 'The Google Story', joined Tucker Carlson to discuss these recent developments.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST 'THE SITUATION':  The news on Google, it‘s expanding to China and in so doing apparently has signed an agreement with the Chinese government to censor the results on its search engine.  That sounds like of evil to me.

DAVID VISE, AUTHOR, “THE GOOGLE STORY”:  Well, Tucker, actually you have got it half right and half wrong.  You‘re absolutely right that Google is opening up shop in China.  China‘s got the second largest Internet market after the United States over 100 million users and growing fast. 

But what Google is doing is is serving China in a way that believes lives up to the mantra, don‘t be evil.  And when I saw that, Google is not going to give information to the Chinese government that could identify any individual users, because it‘s not going to put services there like e-mail and other things.  It‘s only going to start out with things like search that can‘t be identified for any individual. 

And Google is required in Germany to censor certain Web sites that have to do with hate crimes and Nazis and neo-Nazis.  You have got to live by the law of the land where ever you are.

So in china, Google‘s strategy, where it has to censor information is to post something—and they‘re the first company to do this—that says to the user, you‘re looking at a page that has been removed, blacked out, some stuff is missing.

And the theory here is that look, China is changing.  China is growing.  There‘s two strategies you can adopt.  One is, because of censorship, you can say we‘re just not going to go there at all, or you can go there and try to do the best job possible and try to be part of a process of change. 

CARLSON:  What sorts of things will Google be required to filter out?

VISE:  Well, the Chinese government has a very extensive system of filtering out things that have to do with anti-government sentiment, pro-democracy sentiment, and a whole host of other things that it considers to be a threat to the ruling regime.  And those laws and rules apply to everybody. 

But, you know, I have to say this.  If you like using Google, I think you‘ll love reading “The Google Story,” and the reason is because they really do take this motto, don‘t be evil, seriously. 

And somehow, they are able, I think, to do things in a considered way and in a thoughtful way and at the same time, be a company that is so competitive and growing so fast, that they are actually—the company is now worth now more than Ford, General Motors, Amazon, Disney, the “New York Times” Company, the “Washington Post” company, and Dow Jones, publisher of the “Wall Street Journal” combined. 

CARLSON:  That‘s amazing.  And it is a really interesting book.  I actually read it and thought it was very well written. 

But I wonder about this report—there was a piece in “Forbes”, about the Department of Justice tangling with Google.  The DOJ has asked all these different search engines to send up examples of their search requests over the period of month in an effort to—it‘s kind of a complicated story, but to enforce an anti-pornography, child pornography law that‘s gone before the Supreme Court. 

Google has refused to give up this information to the federal government.  “Forbes” makes the point that Google doesn‘t want to give up that information because they don‘t want anyone to know what percentage of the requests that have to do with porn, that a lot of people go into Google looking for pornography, and Google doesn‘t want you to know that.  A, is that true; and B, what percentage of Google‘s revenue comes from porn?

VISE:  Google doesn‘t disclose how much of its revenue comes from pornography, but Google handles more searches than any other search engine.  People use Google zillions of times a day.  So lots of people look at pornography on the internet.  So more people get their pornography through Google than they do through any other search engine. 

What they‘re doing in this particular case though, is refusing to comply with what they believe is an overly broad Justice Department subpoena.  They‘ve asked for every Google search for a week, they‘ve asked for a million Web sites and all these other things. 

CARLSON:  I agree.  I mean, I don‘t think there‘s any defending what the government has asked Google to do.  Good for Google.

VISE:  Google is basically saying, look, you know, this is an overly broad request and we‘re going to protect the privacy interests of our users.  But it doesn‘t have anything to do with hiding for pornography. 

Google is a super competitive company and the real truth is—and they say so in their filing—they don‘t want to turn this stuff over to the Justice Department because they don‘t want their competitors at Yahoo!  and at Microsoft and AOL to know who does what searches on Google and how often and ...

CARLSON:  And they shouldn‘t have to.  I totally agree.

I just want to ask you one question that I didn‘t get from the book and I had in my mind when I finished the book, and that is about the executive chef at Google, Charlie. 

VISE:  Charlie.

CARLSON:  Exactly. He used to cook for the Grateful Dead.  He‘s since left Google.  A lot of people got rich at Google.  Did he get rich and if so, what did he make?

VISE:  Charlie is the only chef with stock options in America.  Charlie‘s a millionaire today.  He recently came to Washington.  He‘s a great guy.  Charlie made millions.  Charlie has left Google.  Charlie is opening his own restaurant. 

And he‘s hoping that lots of Googlers will come there and eat.  He‘s opening it  in Palo Alto right near Stanford, and Charlie makes Elvis Presley‘s fried chicken.  And that favorite fried chicken is a recipe he learned from a chef at the Waldorf in New York. 

And one of the—I think, to me, one of the funniest and most enjoyable things in the Google story is the recipe for Elvis‘ fried chicken that came straight from Charlie.  I promise you, if you eat it, you‘ll love it.  I‘ve tasted it.  There‘s nothing like it.

CARLSON:  Not as good as peanut butter and bacon fat though, that other Elvis favorite.  David Vise, author of “The Google Story,” a terrific book.