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txt :: Search engines vs. China

I have been reading a lot of articles lately concerning the issue of search engines censoring their chinese search engines because the Chinese government demanded it. Google has also agreed to go against their own basic policy of not censoring information and provided China with a google.cn address which will in fact censor information. Yahoo and Microsoft have also agreed to do this. This has raised many eyebrows among everyone, including the US House of Representatives who have openly confronted the search engine giants about their decisions. I'd like to include a bit that was interesting from a Register.co.uk article. These are the responses by the search engine PRs to a democrat Tom Lantos:

According to the article:

Yahoo! Senior Vice President Michael Callahan agreed the Shi Tao matter "raises profound and troubling questions about basic human rights", but insisted that his company had "made our views clearly known to the Chinese government".

Google Vice President Elliot Schrage offered: "The requirements of doing business in China include self-censorship - something that runs counter to Google's most basic values and commitments as a company." He added that Google's Chinese search engine "respects the content restrictions imposed by Chinese laws and regulations".

Microsoft lobbyist Jack Krumholtz, in response to Landos' enquiry as to whether his company was ashamed of its actions, echoed Google's justification with: "We comply with legally binding orders whether it's here in the US or China."


The next part absolutely shocked me. Lantos asks:

Well, IBM complied with legal orders when they cooperated with Nazi Germany. Those were legal orders under the Nazi German system... Do you think that IBM during that period had something to be ashamed of?


I was shocked when I read this. The search engines have justified their actions by saying they are simply obeying the laws of the country. I'm not sure what I would like to see. No censorship or obeying the government? It's a very delicate issue because I can see the Chinese government being worried about absolute freedom of speech, etc. I just wanted to hear some opinions out there on what you guys think about this whole issue.

posted by bla on Monday, February 20, 2006

5 Comments:

At 20 February, 2006 14:28, Blogger denis said...

I'm on search engines side on this one.

They simply do not want to get into the whole politics of trying to bring freedom to China through their service. I would ask a retorical question. Why did US gevernment made Google take down high resolution maps of white house, pentagon and etc.? Google had to comply because it is a government regulation of the contry they're offering the service in.

 
At 20 February, 2006 14:36, Blogger bla said...

Good point Denis. I agree with your point that they have to respect the laws of the country. However can we really say that the internet is regional? I mean what decides that? IPs? Anyone can use a proxy server to disguise their location and bypass all this. All these things make the situation very tricky. You know what I mean? I remember reading an article on Yahoo! planning on censoring stuff everywhere and I was pretty worked up about it. The reason behind that is that once this stuff starts being censored, the next step will be to make some laws against having these things on the web period. And then the right of freedom of speech is pretty much gone.

 
At 20 February, 2006 14:45, Blogger denis said...

Russia just passed a low that in order to go online you have to prove your identity (ex: to go online in internet club you have to show your passport and they will record your information) so these kind of things are already in place. Combine it with US law about prosecuting for blog comment offence then the freedom of speech is already slipping away. At least while underground is alive there will always be ways around it (anonymizers, proxies and etc).

 
At 21 February, 2006 10:43, Blogger bla said...

Is that law for any internet user? even at home? that's kind of weird if you have to do it even from home. I mean I can see how it can help with making anonymous access less possible, but still...

 
At 21 February, 2006 13:46, Blogger denis said...

If you're at home you have to get the connection somehow and for getting internet services (when you sign up the first time) you have to show your passport.

 

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