Better Understanding China's Online Censorship
from the shades-of-gray? dept
Lots of folks have been talking about the latest NY Times Magazine article on the struggle of Google in China (plenty of folks submitted it here as well, so thanks). It’s a long article, and well worth reading for a variety of reasons. Much of it has been covered to death elsewhere, from the way many in China view the censorship issue to the fact that Baidu is used for downloading copyrighted material. Two things, though, stood out that were different about it than other stories we’ve seen about Google and China and the whole censorship issue. The first is that Google finally gets to tell their whole story on how they view China — and it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as the original coverage. Or, the more cynical among you may say that Google has finally figured out how to spin their side of the story to make it sound positive. When the story first came out, Google looked awful — and everything they said in response (remember the famous “sliding scale of evil”?) made them look worse. However, as described in this piece, their position comes out looking much better (whether or not you believe their side is up to you, of course). The other, perhaps more interesting, bit is that contrary to popular opinion, the Great Firewall of China doesn’t necessarily work by having a big ban list, but by simply having government officials threaten companies that let in the “bad stuff.” Then, those companies feel the need to self-censor whatever the government might not like — probably going overboard in the process. In other words, they’re trying to outsource the job of censoring by creating a fearful atmosphere that is more likely to censor any potentially problematic site without waiting for word from the government. It’s that element that might make you wonder, no matter how good Google’s intentions are, if they’ll really be able to be able to live up to their motto, and stay on the right side of Chinese officials at the same time.