Tech Firms To State Dept: Stop Us Before We Help Censor The Internet In China Again

from the say-what? dept

It's no secret that the technology behind "the great firewall of China" is often supplied by American firms. While Google has received plenty of criticism for its own policies in China, lots of other companies are just as bad, if not worse -- and the US government has been investigating the matter for some time. That's why it's interesting to see various tech companies defending their China policies to the State Department, but at the same time sending a slightly different message, suggesting that the real way to deal with this is diplomatically. That is, they want the State Department to include state-sponsored censorship as a "free trade" issue in diplomatic discussions with China, pushing China to cut down on such practices. That might make sense, but it still sounds a little funny coming from the same firms who are helping to censor the internet in the country. Obviously, part of it is (as they claim) that they're just living under the local laws -- but it still seems like a situation where, if they have such a problem with it, perhaps they shouldn't be helping to keep the practice alive.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 8:09am

    I don't they they want to help keep the practice alive. They are trying to do business and if they don't, someone else will step in and take their place. I think that we should applaud their act of conscience here. Be happy that they are trying to use their leverage to change things.

     

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  2.  
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    Shohat, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 8:10am

    Ahem

    Considering the fact that China has actually successfuly moving toward Communism , shouldn't he US (and everyone else) learn from them , and not the other way around ?

     

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  3.  
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    Andrew, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 8:11am

    Think of it as expanding their market.

    If they get the big firewall out of the way, then thousands of schools, libraries and other such places that need to help keep children away from bad content will need firewall equipment.

     

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  4.  
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    Andrew, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 8:15am

    Re: Ahem

    Oppressing your people isn't a fundamental point of communism.

    I would say China has failed to make communism anything more than an excuse.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 8:27am

    Re: Ahem

    i find nothing successful about their movements.

    communism is great in theory, but in practice it will always fail. it assumes the best of everyone, but what you can see in the world is that in general, people are usually never at their best.

    capitalism capitalizes on some of the not so great parts of our general behavior and in turn creates some good out of it.

     

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  6.  
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    Ryan, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 8:28am

    I'm tired

    I'm tired of hearing people complain about companies doing business in china even though they're being censored.

    Sure, censorship is a bad thing.. but the overall good outweighs the bad here.

    Are the people of china better or worse off having access to things they do (even though it's censored), than having no access at all? Of course they are! Even a portion of Google is better than no Google at all right?

    Any company that does business in China is still creating a greater good for the peopl than they would have had they refused due to censorship.

    Secondly, these companies have a duty to their stockholders to increase profits. Expanding into China is a good way to do so.

     

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  7.  
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    Bumbling old fool, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 8:35am

    Re: I'm tired

    Sure, censorship is a bad thing.. but the overall good outweighs the bad here.

    Not only do I disagree, but I strongly disagree. And so do all the people you are tired of hearing complain.

    Secondly, these companies have a duty to their stockholders to increase profits. Expanding into China is a good way to do so.

    Yes and no. It "was" a good way to do so. Lately, however the free press has decided to take a stand against it, and the negative press these companies are recieving is negating their prospective growth opportunities by expanding into that market. Thus we are seeing publicly traded companies backpedaling. They don't want to be associated with this anymore. This "cost of doing business" is too high.

     

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  8.  
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    thinlizzy151, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 8:42am

    RE:Ahem

    The only thing China has ever moved successfully toward is an oppressive, one-party state. Marx's theories work wonderfully on paper, but have never been successfully been put into actual practice. Human nature being what it is, that is inevitable. Adam Smith's theories sound wonderful as well, and also don't work very well in actual practice. The very people who put any given ideology into practice inevitably bollox it up through selfishness, desire for power, financial gain, jealousy - after all, we're only human. I'm no fan of capitalism, but it sure beats living in an oppressive, Marxist/Maoist/Stalinist dictatorship where just having the wrong opinion gets you thrown into some "re-education" camp.

     

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  9.  
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    haywood, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 9:03am

    Re: RE:Ahem

    I couldn't agree more. The point that pure communism misses is; If you pay the floor sweeper and the brain surgeon exactly the same, why on earth would anyone choose to be a brain surgeon? The fields which require a great deal of preparation to enter offer no compensation under pure communism, which is why it is never seen and doomed to fail. What worries me is our version of it. I see increased socialism regardless of which party is in power. What we do is take part of the brain surgeons wages and through taxes give part of it to the floor sweeper. On the face of it that isn't so bad, but the surgeon unwilling to sacrifice his well earned lifestyle simply raises his prices to compensate, fueling inflation, and putting his service ever further from the floor sweepers reach.

     

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  10.  
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    DKP, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 9:33am

    I have an Idea why not pull out and see what happens when they are in a virtual ilasnd all by themselves cut off from the rest of the world

     

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  11.  
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    Wolfger, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 9:55am

    Makes sense, really.

    These companies don't want to censor (in other words, "offer less content") their product in China, but in the cut-throat business world, the one company (or dozen companies) that agree to censor gain access to the proverbial "billion chinamen" while their more ethical competitors lose out on all that potential revenue. No industry heavyweight could afford to stick to its moral guns with that much economic leverage bearing down on them. Asking the government to force themselves (and by extension, their competitors) to not censor in China, it levels the playing field. Nobody gets the advantage, and nobody has to weigh morals versus stock value. It's sad commentary, though, that stock value won easily in that situation.

     

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  12.  
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    Ryan, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 10:00am

    no..

    Not only do I disagree, but I strongly disagree. And so do all the people you are tired of hearing complain.

    I bet the people would be a lot more pissed off if you completely took away their "censored" internet.

    Ask any person in China. They'd rather have censored than nothing at all. So, until you can provide them with full content... what's the harm in providing them censored content?

    These companies are making money while legally providing a service that the people of China want. I see nothing wrong with that.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Ahem

    communism is great in theory, but in practice it will always fail. it assumes the best of everyone, but what you can see in the world is that in general, people are usually never at their best.


    Interesting point, but Capitalism assumes the best of the few people in power. As you say, "people are usually never at their best", I suppose that's how situations like Enron arise. Unfortunately in the corporate world, integrity does not equal power, $=power.

    In the end, the masses are at the mercy of those in control. Sounds familiar, oh right, its the Feudal System reborn. Anyway, cue the brainwashed idiots who were taught to "Kill a Commie for Mommy"...

     

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  14.  
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    Green, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 10:24am

    Re: Ahem

    Define successfuly please. Does your definition of successfuly include the crimes against society and individuals that the Chinese government propagates? Please...

     

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  15.  
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    UniBoy, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 10:27am

    Communism ruined China...

    In more recent years, China has been moving like gangbusters toward free markets and more privatization. That is the reason that their economy is able to succeed. Communisim repressed their growth for many years.

     

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  16.  
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    JG, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 10:43am

    I'm no expert...

    but it seems to me that the technologies China uses to censor and firewall can also be used for more legitimate purposes. So the issue isn't companies "assisting" China's government, but rather whether they should be selling in China at all, given what China is likely to do with the technology. It seems to me that SOME company will always be willing to do business with China, and even if there were no companies willing, how hard do you think it would be for the Chinese government to get hold of a few routers?

     

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  17.  
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    QuoteMark, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Ahem

    I think this illustrates the problem with blaming any "ism". Caring capitalism would be great. Ethical communism would be great. Its not the system. Its the people in it. "Bad" people will abuse any "ism". A good system tries to limit the abuses of "bad" people, without limiting the "good" people. Even SERIOUSLY flawed "ism"s like fascism can be good if the dictator is benevolent. Our symptom is bad government; our disease is bad people.

     

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  18.  
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    An ony mouse, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 11:07am

    make it illegal

    Trying to humiliate or shame a company into some definition of socially responsible behavior is a waste of time. If a company can make greater profit doing something objectionable albeit legal, then you know some company will do it. That is the basis of capitalism.

    If you don't want companies doing something you find objectionable, pass a law against it. That is the only thing that will work. It is that simple.

     

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  19.  
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    QuoteMark, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 11:10am

    Re: make it illegal

    Or someone could sue them...LOL

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 11:13am

    If you could take the PR and Legalspeak out of a corporate charter, it would read:

    1) Goverment law trumps our charter/policy (sometimes unstated)

    2) Make Money

    3) Be Nice

    In that order. The companies are doing what they are "designed" to do in China, etc.

    Change the law...

     

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  21.  
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    Faz, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 11:25am

    Question

    Should we, the West really try to push any country towards having the internet our way? sure full content is a good thing, but should we not wait for the Chinese people to realize this and force their government into full unblocked internet. we had out shares of revolutions???

    Just a thought about why we should meddle with social policies?

     

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  22.  
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    exitstageleft, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 11:44am

    Nothing to see here. Please move along.

     

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  23.  
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    Overcast, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 11:48am

    They should have Microsoft make the content filtering apps for China.

    Buffer Overflow anyone?

    lol

    China would ditch the whole system after the first 9000 patches in a year.

     

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  24.  
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    Hopeless Cynic, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 11:53am

    The Good Ol' Days

    Too bad we can't solve the world's problems like the founders of this country - by packing up and moving to another land with a wealth of natural resources. There is a littering of intelligent comments in this thread, mine NOT being one of them. However, having aspiring people that understand the world, now that is hope for the future. In the end, though, the redneck phrase comes to mind: wish in one hand, crap in the other, and see which one fills up quicker.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, Jan 31st, 2007 @ 4:19pm

    Marxism

    Marxism could be argued to never have been implemented. Marxism-Leninism has, but that is something different. What China has now is not communism, either as set out by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, or Sun Yat-Sen. Thay managed to achieve a reasonable approximation of Marxism-Leninism, but have been abandoning the Marxism, leving just the repression and brutality.

    The major problem with communism is the no-one has yet been benevolent and competent who implemented it. A large part of the economic problems the USSR had towards the end were the result of any sort of quality control, profit motive, or common sense. For example, in one factory, they produced sunglasses so dark that you could not see the sun through them and a balls so thin that they burst when you kicked them. THere were regular trains carrying concrete roofing beams from Moscow to (I believe) Stalingard, passing a train of concrete roofing beams going from Stalingrad to Moscow. Passenger trains ran empty so that teh required mileage would be achieved. THen there was the problem of corruption. Goods allocated to factories under state plans were insuffiecient to manufacture the required items, so the managers had to bribe suppliers to get another factories supplies. By the time this was done, and the supplies were actually delivered, there was so little time to actually make the goods that tehy were rushed and badly finished. all these examples came from the following books:
    M Bucklow and G Russel. Russia: Why Revolution? Addison Wesley
    Longman Australia Pty Limted, Sydney, 2 edition, 1991.
    or possibly:
    Steve Philips. Lenin and the Russian Revolution. Hinemann Advanced
    History. Hienemann Educational Publishers, 2000.

     

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