Google goes it alone in China censorship fight

Mar 28, 2010 by Chris Lefkow
The Google logo is reflected in windows of the company's China head office as the Chinese national flag flies in the wind in Beijing on March 23. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a major speech on Internet freedom two months ago, called on US technology firms not to support online censorship.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a major speech on Internet freedom two months ago, called on US technology firms not to support online censorship.

"I hope that refusal to support politically motivated censorship will become a trademark characteristic of American technology companies," Clinton said. "It should be part of our national brand."

Amid a host of trade disputes with China, however, Google's decision last week to halt censorship there met with only a fairly muted response from the State Department -- and virtual silence from other US technology giants.

Go Daddy, the world's largest registrar of Web domain names, did announce that it was no longer registering names in China because of what it called "chilling" new identification requirements imposed by the Chinese authorities.

And another domain name registrar, Network Solutions, told AFP it had stopped offering the .cn domain names in December because of the "intrusive nature" of the new Chinese policies for those seeking Web addresses.

But no other US companies indicated they were prepared to follow Google's lead and run the risk of being shut out of the world's largest online market.

Microsoft, Yahoo!, Cisco and previously Google are among the US firms which have been accused by members of the US Congress and human rights groups of abetting the machine dubbed the "Great Firewall of China."

Yahoo! did not reply to a request for comment on Google's move but chief executive said last year: "It's not our job to fix the Chinese government.

"We will respect human rights but not take on every government in the world -- that's not our mandate," Bartz said.

Microsoft for its part last week reiterated the position the software giant expressed in January when Google revealed that it and other companies had been the target of cyberattacks originating in China.

"We appreciate that different companies may make different decisions about where and how they operate their business based on their own experiences and views," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

"We remain committed to advancing free expression, and we currently are engaged actively in doing business in over 100 countries, even as we comply with the laws in every country in which we operate."

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, said he was "disappointed" with Microsoft and that its stance was "against freedom of speech and human rights."

While praising Google, Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, said Microsoft "need to get with the program and join with the side of human rights rather than enabling tyranny."

Google's decision to stand up to the Chinese authorities also won plaudits from human rights groups but it was not universally lauded and Microsoft and Yahoo! also had their defenders.

Michael Arrington, founder of US technology blog TechCrunch, condemned what he called Google's "certain level of hypocrisy" for abandoning a search market they were "failing in" while leaving behind "assets that have more promise."

Deriding Go Daddy's move a "publicity stunt," Arrington said "whatever China is or isn't, we are all very much in business with them."

"What I can't sit and watch is Microsoft being raked over the coals by a government that does nothing to fight the evil that they say exists in China," he said.

, Microsoft and Yahoo! are all founding members of the Global Network Initiative, which brings together Internet and telecom companies, human rights groups, academics and investors to protect freedom of expression and privacy.

Rebecca MacKinnon, a member of GNI's board of directors, noted to AFP that Yahoo! had largely disengaged from and said Microsoft's continued presence there is not at odds with its participation in the initiative.

"The point is to try and be practical with the idea that engagement is the ideal situation if they can figure out a way to do it responsibly," MacKinnon said. "We try to get beyond the alternative of in or out.

"It would be unhelpful to say that the Chinese do a lot of bad things therefore the technology sector should disengage," she said. "Because then they should disengage from half the countries in the world."

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User comments : 16

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frajo
1 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2010
"It would be unhelpful to say that the Chinese do a lot of bad things therefore the technology sector should disengage," she said. "Because then they should disengage from half the countries in the world."
That's the crucial point. Any article or comment which condemns Chinese censorship without mentioning at least Australian and German censorship has the smell of ideological bias.
Any company which justifies its decision to leave China by Chinese censorship but at the same time keeps working in the remaining realm of censorship is just exploiting the irrational Western animosity towards China.
marjon
3.8 / 5 (6) Mar 28, 2010
It not irrational to oppose totalitarian communists.
frajo
3 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2010
It not irrational to oppose totalitarian communists.

I see. For people like you, Western censorship is not worth mentioning.
marjon
4 / 5 (4) Mar 28, 2010
It not irrational to oppose totalitarian communists.

I see. For people like you, Western censorship is not worth mentioning.

In the west, citizens have the opportunity to oppose and change such censorship.
http://www.infowa...sorship/
No such opportunity exists in China.
Any similar protests in China?
JerryPark
5 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2010
Kudos to Google and praise to Go Daddy and Network Solutions.

Shame on those who enable human rights abuses.
frajo
1 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2010
In the west, citizens have the opportunity to oppose and change such censorship.
So when and where did you oppose Western censorship?
When and where did citizens change Western censorship?
marjon
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2010
In the west, citizens have the opportunity to oppose and change such censorship.
So when and where did you oppose Western censorship?
When and where did citizens change Western censorship?

Do you deny that people in Western democratic republics have the opportunity to oppose government censorship?
The New York Times has published government classified national security information many times without being punished or prosecuted.
The USA has the first amendment. Similar restrictions on the government do not exist in other countries.
frajo
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2010
In the west, citizens have the opportunity to oppose and change such censorship.
So when and where did you oppose Western censorship?
When and where did citizens change Western censorship?

Do you deny that people in Western democratic republics have the opportunity to oppose government censorship?
You did not answer my question. As usual.
marjon
3 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2010
In the west, citizens have the opportunity to oppose and change such censorship.
So when and where did you oppose Western censorship?
When and where did citizens change Western censorship?

Do you deny that people in Western democratic republics have the opportunity to oppose government censorship?
You did not answer my question. As usual.

Yes, I did. Answer my question.
CyberRat
5 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2010
Meanwhile works on ACTA continues

http://en.wikiped...greement
marjon
1 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2010
Another example of how censorship has been repealed in the USA:
"the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an “information curtain” hung on the American people not by the autocratic rulers of Egypt nor the Politburo of China, but by the Congress of the United States."
http://www.thenew...e-speech
frajo
3 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2010
Yes, I did.
You never referred to Western online censorship.
Answer my question.
Den eisai o strategos mou.
Another example of how censorship has been repealed in the USA:
"the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an “information curtain” hung on the American people not by the autocratic rulers of Egypt nor the Politburo of China, but by the Congress of the United States."
Nothing to do with online censorship. Your permanent evasion of displeasing questions is a method which simply does not work on scientific minds.
marjon
1 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2010
Mission accomplished:
"Thank you for your interest in Families Against Internet Censorship. I write to tell you that after thirteen years, I believe our job is done. With no regrets and many fond memories, I am shutting down FAIC.
We have come a long way since 1996. We won a unanimous decision in the Supreme Court. The ACLU honored us with a National Civil Liberties Award. First Amendment protections have been secured for online media that are as strong as those for print. "
"Eternal vigilance is, of course, the price of liberty. I hope families will always be aware of the risks involved in asking the government to act in loco parentis, sacrificing their freedom for the illusion of security. Should the specter of internet censorship emerge again, I hope younger parents will step forward to demand their freedom and their right to parent their children how they want, not how others think they should.
http://www.netfamilies.org/
paulthebassguy
4 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2010
The difference between Chinese and Western censorship though is the type of content.

China is renowned for blocking political content. In Australia, for example, only offensive content like child porn is restricted but there is still political freedom of speech.
marjon
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2010
The difference between Chinese and Western censorship though is the type of content.

China is renowned for blocking political content. In Australia, for example, only offensive content like child porn is restricted but there is still political freedom of speech.

Maybe that is why frajo is upset?
frajo
3 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2010
The difference between Chinese and Western censorship though is the type of content.
China is renowned for blocking political content.
Germany is not so renowned, but does block certain political internet pages.
In Australia, for example, only offensive content like child porn is restricted but there is still political freedom of speech.
You can't know whether it's the only content which is censored. The Australian list of censored internet pages is secret.

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