Microsoft has taken a lot of flak in recent months for its level of cooperation with the Chinese government in regards to censorship. It has made modifications to the Chinese distribution of Windows XP to prevent the user from searching for "banned terms" such as "freedom" or "democracy". Then, the company bowed again to Bejing's demands by closing an MSN blog run by a Chinese journalist after he criticized the government's firing of editors at a progressive newspaper.
It's all part of an increasingly disturbing trend of large technology corporations cooperating with China's efforts to restrict the flow of free information behind the Chinese Firewall. Corporations claim that they're simply complying with the laws of the jurisdictions they do business in. And when that jurisdiction in one of the fastest growing economies on Earth, it represents a significantly important investment to shareholders.
But are we gutting the future of our own freedom by allowing our western public companies to help China continue its stranglehold on information and expression? If an oppressive China rules the world decades from now, will it be our own public companies that are at fault?
Joining this latest debacle against democracy is, of all companies, Google. Take a look at their own Corporate Philosophy and you'll find such tenets as "Democracy on the web works", and "You can make money without doing evil". Indeed, when the U.S. government recently demanded access to Google's log of search queries so that they could track how often users were accessing pornography, Google gave then a terse "no" and promised to fight the subpoena. But Google made a mockery of it's own high-falutin' ideas this week when they agreed to censor search results on their google.cn domain. It's funny how quickly a high-minded, young-blooded corporation can become corrupted as soon as it has shareholders to please.
Bambi Francisco of Marketwatch has a few things to say about this development that I think you should all read. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, I hope you sleep well at night knowing you're helping to suppress people's freedoms.
Posted on January 26, 2006 12:33 PM
Ever since I was a kid John Hersey's novel White Lotus about what the world would be like if the Chinese had world power has haunted me. It was at the time as shattering as George Orwells 1984 and has remained a nightmaric vision ever since with me. I believe they are fully capable of it because of their obsession with control which is what the censorship is about.Posted on January 27, 2006 07:47 AM