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World Tour Of Technology Companies Bowing To State Power
Worldcrunch
Nastassia Dobremez

From Facebook to Google, Baidu to VKontakte, the world's biggest technology companies talk about their singular dedication to their users. Yet the road to becoming a global tech titan is inevitably lined with hard choices and conflicts of interest. Here are five prominent controversies where companies are accused of ceding to questionable demands of the government.

CHINA: BAIDU IN BED

The more than 600 million Internet users in China exercise their online freedom with serious limitations. While growing into the leading Chinese search engine, Baidu has acted as a continuous enforcer of the government's policies, including regularly blocking data with sensitive content. For instance you won't get far if you type in the terms "June Fourth" (å…­å››), a reference to the June 4, 1989 massacre of students at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Baidu censors every reference to the date, and mentions at the top of the page that "according to relevant laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not displayed".

Similarly, the same sentence appears when you are looking for the words "Communist Bandits" (共匪), and "Tragic Communist Party" (共惨党). Baidu is the fifth most seen website in the world after Google, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo!

MOROCCO: GOOGLE MAPS FOR A MONARCH

Google Maps is huge. Last summer, the new version of its application was downloaded more than one billion times on Android. It is in very plain terms how much of us see the world. But with this power comes responsibility.

In November, Morocco will celebrate 40 years since the Green March, which was a mass government-led demonstration to compel Spain to hand the Western Sahara over to Morocco. But this territory, which is bordered by three countries (Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania) and was occupied by Spain in the 19th century, continues to be disputed territory. Thus, on its website, Google Maps showed the boundary of this disputed zone by a dotted line.

Many Moroccan users disliked this outline and voiced it strongly, as Moroccan King Mohammed VI declared that the territory would always belong to the monarchy. In the face of the growing controversy, Google eventually deleted the dotted line — but only if you're viewing it in Morocco. It must be the latest version of the U.S. search giant's slogan: Don't be evil.

RUSSIA: VKONTAKTE PUT-IN PLACE

Vladimir Putin's Kremlin has a close eye on all that circulates, on and off line. VKontakte (VK), Russia's most popular social network boasts twice as many users in that country as Facebook. While Mark Zuckerberg's company risked last month getting blocked in Russia if it continued not to respect the country's internet laws, VK had been more obedient since its founder was forced out of Russia…

Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, who was born in 1984, launched his social networking site in September 2006, and was eventually used as a way to organize anti-Putin demonstrations — and Durov quickly faced pressures from Moscow. In 2011, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) showed up at his apartment with guns drawn after he'd refused to take down the political protesters' VKontakte pages. On April 21, 2014, Durov was forced out of the company after having refused to give to the FSB personal data on users implicated in anti-government protests in Ukraine.

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