Monday, April 19, 2004

freedom to censor
“The market will free China” has been a dominant meme in reporting the country since Clinton originally won election in 1992, claiming that Bush “coddled dictators” in obvious reference to Tiananmen back in 1989. A sustained lobbying effort soon made it pretty clear to him that the appropriate policy for a pro-business democrat was to go right ahead and coddle China a whole lot more. So the idea that consumer chpice will eventually lead to political choice was the natural fallback position, also one which chimed well with the market supremacist mode of the 1990’s as well as finding intellectual underpinning in public choice theory. Additionally, the internet gave the whole ideological package a nice futurist feel. It also contains a kind of get out clause. If this freedom stuff doesn;t work out, then hey, whatever, it's the future and we're all going to be cyborgs anyway. Pursue wow, not democracy.

It’s one of those turbocharged memes which just keeps on keeping on:

While a decade ago government media outlets were the only source of news, market-oriented Internet portals are now challenging the state media. When the Internet picks up a sensitive story, it's not long before the increasingly earnings-driven mainstream print media feels forced to jump into the fray.

(via Arts and Letters Daily)

The point that the writer misses or ignores is the fact that it’s the major tech companies which have given China the technology to censor the internet in the first place, and which continue to do so as the price of entry into the market.

The quick workaround: Chinese authorities tweaked the national firewall, making the new Google China different from the site that was turned off. Today, Chinese who use Google to search on terms like "falun gong" or "human rights in china" receive a standard-looking results page. But when they click on any of the results, either their browsers are redirected to a blank or government-approved page, or their computers are blocked from accessing Google for an hour or two. "They have a new mechanism that can block the results of certain searches," Brin says. Did Google help China find or obtain the filtering technology? "We didn't make changes to our servers" is all he'll say.

Monstrous coroprate vanity. We'll show you that we can find the stuff you want, but you can't actually get the information.And Google aren’t the only ones.

The group specifically named technology firms Microsoft Corp., Nortel Networks Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. for deals they have done in China which AI believes have contributed to the government's ability to monitor and censor public Internet use in what it sees as a major strike against freedom of expression.

According to the report, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people detained in China over the last year for expressing their opinions online. What's more, the Chinese government has been increasing its surveillance and monitoring of cyber cafes, Internet service providers and businesses in the country, AI said.

A friend of mine in China accesses this site using bits of workaround technology. the Chinese government demands that companies that work in its market find new ways to block these workarounds. So that doesn’t so much point to greater freedom for China as integrate the whole issue into the product development cycle of technology companies.