by Kevin Donovan

Filed Under:
business, censorship, china

How Does Chinese Internet Censorship Affect Business?

from the unintended-consequences? dept

China's sophisticated Internet surveillance and censorship often make headlines in the West. Usually, those stories chronicle the latest crackdown on dissident netizens or highlight a Western journalist's inability to reach the websites of human rights organizations. But recently, more of those articles are focusing on the business aspects of the censorship.

For example, some people are pushing for the US government to make Internet censorship a trade issue. The argument, that Google has made in Congressional testimony, is that digital barriers to the free flow of information are equivalent to traditional trade barriers which are illegal under WTO rules; as such, the US Trade Representative should use its leverage to lower those costs to doing business in China and elsewhere. It is not clear if this will be effective, especially given numerous other bilateral trade issues between China and the United States, but recent news makes it clear that censorship does affect technology companies in China.

Late last week, the head of the Internet surveillance department at the Beijing Bureau of Public Safety was arrested on charges of corruption. The man is accused of taking bribes of nearly $6 million to help an anti-virus company beat its competitor. This is obviously problematic for foreign companies operating in a country where they do not have close ties to the powerful bureaucracy, especially given China's notoriously corrupt judiciary. But perhaps what is even more worrying is that Internet censorship and surveillance are on the rise around the world, only furthering the control exerted upon what could be a very free marketplace.

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