A tool for freedom or repression?
Published on February 1, 2006 By Larry Kuperman In Internet
The CNN lead to this story reads "Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Cisco came under sharp attack from leaders of Congress and human rights advocates for aiding China's efforts to censor the Internet and punish dissidents."

Having read the story, it is more apt to describe what happened as the major companies that, to large measure control the Internet, refused to attend a scolding. But....I post the story because of the wider implications.

On one hand, the Internet stands poised as the greatest tool for freedom of information and empowerment that the world has ever seen. If knowledge is power, then the Internet is the tool for releasing that power. On the other hand, it creates and fosters an illusion of privacy when, in fact, nothing is private.

China has 30,000 people monitoring how its residents use the Internet. "Most authoritarian regimes try to control what their citizens read and do online, but China is far and away the world champion," says Lucie Morillon, Washington director of Reporters Without Borders. Even more frightening is that the companies named in the opening have all cooperated with the Chinese government to one degree or another. Microsoft deleted the blog of Zhao Jing, who works as a researcher in the Beijing bureau of The New York Times. Yahoo helped the police trace a private e-mail account of a Chinese journalist who was then imprisoned for revealing state secrets. Just last week, about a dozen supporters of a free Tibet picketed Google's Mountain View headquarters.

Perhaps more frightening is the US Government's request for Google's records of searchs relating to child pornography. Yes, we are all against child pornography, but what would they ask for next?

How about the NSA's use of cookies? Government spyware?

The article suggests that the Internet industry, as a group, to develop a set of global standards for dealing with censorship. I support the idea and would like to see that carried forward.

Comments
on Feb 02, 2006

Perhaps more frightening is the US Government's request for Google's records of searchs relating to child pornography. Yes, we are all against child pornography, but what would they ask for next?

Larry...that doesn't frighten me in the least.  The more that Rock Spiders are exposed and dealt with the merrier...

What scares the crap out of me is this Global revisionism that sees people being denied the truth....for ANY reason.

This willingness to comply and/or acquiesce is extremely dangerous.

Those who ignore history may be guaranteed to repeat it.....

But...

Those who are denied history have no chance in hell of ever learning from it...

That idiot American who denies the Holocaust existed...that it was some fiendish plot to make Joe Public feel sorry for the Jewish/Middle Eastern 'issues'...or some such tripe is downright dangerous....more so than even letting the KKK promote the odd 'nigger-burning' or two all for the cause of free speech and the right of assembly.  "Yay, let's all have as a church-burnin'...."

The Nazis  'played' with 'Information'.....they just burned books.....and turned propaganda into a very efficient/effective tool....

The US hired Walt Disney to do much the same....[but didn't give him the matches]....

Now it's all taken to a Global forum/medium....the Internet.....

.....and the first chance 'we' have of fostering inter-racial and international concord on a massive scale we [that is Google, et al] drop the effing ball and throw us all right back into the dark ages.

We really have NOT fallen out far from the trees.

Bunch of monkeys...we deserve our fate....

 

on Feb 02, 2006
Lest the point be lost here...

Paul, when they come knocking at your door, or searching your email account, and they say that they are looking for "Rock Spiders" to borrow your turn of phrase, will you say "Alright then, as long as its in a good cause?"

I am fine with the law going after John Doe because the suspect he has commtted a crime and can obtain a warrant based on evidence of that commision. I am NOT fine with the government having the right to pour through millions of records (billions, perhaps?) on the chance that SOMEONE has committed a crime.

As for Holocaust deniers (not sure of the relevance of that, but I can roll with it) they are not confined to America. Iran seems to offer a friendly climate these days. Australia has had its own issues as noted at Link

I beg to differ with you regarding ".....and the first chance 'we' have of fostering inter-racial and international concord on a massive scale" The potential for this was always overrated. How many hate sites are there on the Internet? The Internet, in and of itself, does not change human behavior. It is a tool, not a panacea. Improved communication and flow of information? Yes, of course, hence the point of this article. But expecting it to usher in an era of concord....the lion laying down with the lamb becasue they read the same blog perhaps?

But let me leave you with a scary thought. Imagine that I "Google" the Holocaust from the US or Australia and I bring up horrific stories and images. And then I conduct that very same search using the same engine from Iran...and I only find denials. Because the government of Iran made that a condition for selling Ad-Words in that country.

What then is Truth?





on Feb 02, 2006

But let me leave you with a scary thought. Imagine that I "Google" the Holocaust from the US or Australia and I bring up horrific stories and images. And then I conduct that very same search using the same engine from Iran...and I only find denials. Because the government of Iran made that a condition for selling Ad-Words in that country.

That's the whole point.

Google's bending to Govts' pressures to alter reality or at best have selective versions of reality is fundamentally wrong....so wrong it should not have been agreed to.

When the perception of truth is what the majority believes....and the 'majority' on this planet is very definitely China...then it will come to pass that China's 'reality' becomes dominant/all-pervasive.

If 3 billion  Chinese assert that the world is flat then to a degree no amount of pointing at globes by the insignificant remainder of the population is going to amount to diddly-squat.

....not when so much of the world is 'majority rules' or 'might is right'....

on Feb 02, 2006
Gah....had to edit....IE7 beta does strange things to this text input....
on Feb 02, 2006

It is a nice sentiment, but unless you have a carrot or stick, it will not work.  China has both, and so they get their way.  America does not (due to the nature of the societies), so it cannot impose its will (hence Google's contempt for the Rock Spiders request).

 

on Feb 02, 2006

Google 'could' say...eff-you, China...it's either the 'common truth' or nothing....no 'adjustments' will be made...for ANY reason.

If China buggers off and denies its public access to Google...the Net, or both...then tough titties for China...either way they will be fed FUD by their Govt.

Google WON'T bugger off, naturally...they're still salivating over 3 billion customers for their advertisers to be 'invading' by gmail....

on Feb 02, 2006
If China buggers off and denies its public access to Google..


That's the stick.

they're still salivating over 3 billion customers for their advertisers to be 'invading' by gmail....


That's the carrot.
on Feb 02, 2006
Google's testimony before US Congress : Link

Any company that wants to be in another country has to abide by their laws. Google is no different and it seems that they are being judged more harshly.

As a publicly traded company Google has an obligation to try to return investment to shareholders. China is a HUGE oportunity to do that. I say "go for it" and do what you have to do to do so.

I don't see it as "evil" to filter. "Evil" in this context would be to insert false data to search results and at that point Google (or any company) should pull the plug.

When the perception of truth is what the majority believes....and the 'majority' on this planet is very definitely China...then it will come to pass that China's 'reality' becomes dominant/all-pervasive.


This arguement has validity, but advocating the truth is not Google's business. Google is an advert seller that uses searches to target the ads.
on Feb 02, 2006
Perhaps more frightening is the US Government's request for Google's records of searchs relating to child pornography. Yes, we are all against child pornography, but what would they ask for next?


This has been a common misconception regarding the government's request (demand?) for Google's search records.

It is NOT about searches for Child Pornography. It is about Children being able to search for Pornography.

They are trying to scrape together data to revive some proposed law that was shot down a year or two ago that was supposed to keep kids from accessing "adult" images online.

The fact that, yes, we are all against child pornography, has mudied the waters, getting everyone thinking that Google is protecting child pornographers, when they are trying to protect the rights of themselves and the end users.

As far as their giving in to the Chinese, I think I'm more in agreement with Zubaz on this one. Google is a business that is bound by all the same constraints as other businesses. I think that were it not for their famous "Don't be Evil" motto, no one would have paid this much attention.

....just my two cents, though.
on Feb 02, 2006
Thanks tjesterb.

They are trying to scrape together data to revive some proposed law that was shot down a year or two ago that was supposed to keep kids from accessing "adult" images online.


I had not heard that.

That begs the question on what data Google could give that would be useful. I have no problem with Google giving the feds info on how many porn images were looked at. But without IP address the information is useless. And even the IP is useless if an adult has access to that IP.

So . . WTF? I know I could google it. . . but is there any documentation on the Fed's plan to use the info?
on Feb 02, 2006
I know I could google it.


on Feb 02, 2006
Doh!!! That *IS* funny.
But could I Google it in China?


Posted via WinCustomize Browser/Stardock Central
on Feb 02, 2006
As has been said, Google has a "responsibility" to be profitable and increase share value. If Google, in a fit of corporate conscience, refused to do business in/with China, a competitor would take their place.

I think the anger is misplaced. The US and other democracies should have national, governmental policies that sanction China for their abysmal human rights record. Companies will do what is legal (and then some) to make money, like the scorpion said to the frog, it is in their nature.

I know it is economically naive, but problems with the behavior of governments should be addressed by governments. If Google had decided to not do business in China, big as Google may be, it wouldn't make a huge difference to the Chinese leadership. Only national or international policy change would have any hope of changing China's human rights repression.

Our governments should have strict trade policies designed to punish China until they shape up. Our governments shouldn't be asking companies to just give them raw data on random citizens. Expecting corporations to place morality over profit is unrealistic--that's not their purpose. Expecting governments to value what is righteous over mere profits may be a lost cause, but gov't is the entity suited to address the problem.
on Feb 02, 2006
CNN has a lot of nerve pointing their stink finger at anyone for censorship. Wasn't it the leadership of CNN that kept their own correspondents in Hussein's Iraq from reporting on the tortures and murders JUST to make it so they could keep correspondents in country?

They still haven't explained that little detail of complicity have they!
on Feb 02, 2006
The Register's take on the Google subpoena: Link

And I DID google it.

I will ask if this is a case of moral relativism. CNN kept coorespondents in Iraq, so Google can do business with China? Should Google change their motto from "Don't be evil" to "Unless the money's good?"

Last point. Google has maintained what I believe to be a very high moral standard. All props to them. I was pointing out the potential and the need for industry standards. See the closing sentence in my original post.
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