from the dozens-of-users-forced-to-choose-from-hundreds-of-alternatives dept
The bell continues to toll for American tech companies willing to do business with China. Increasing censorship demands have made even the most obliging of platforms reconsider their obligations to the authoritarian regime, resulting in the most difficult tradeoff: a company’s reputation versus access to a market containing more than a billion users.
LinkedIn was one of the last to pull up its anchor and exit the country under a not-so-full head of steam. LinkedIn survives in China, albeit in a severely limited form that will make it less likely to receive content deletion requests from the Chinese government. That doesn’t mean it won’t receive more requests. It just means it won’t have as much to delete or block when it’s asked to.
Most social media platforms operated by US companies are already blocked by the Chinese government, mostly due to their refusal to set up local data centers as is required by law in the country. Those that can still be accessed by Chinese citizens are subject to the censorial wishes of the government.
But nothing says American tech companies are done with China like the announcement that a long-forgotten search engine and email provider is finally calling it quits. Last chopper out of Saigon this ain’t. But it’s still notable, even if it only affects a small customer base.
Yahoo Inc. is shutting down operations in China due to an “increasingly challenging business and legal environment,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
As of Nov. 1, Yahoo’s suite of services are “no longer…accessible from mainland China,” a Yahoo spokesman tells the Journal, which notes that on the same day, China’s Personal Information Protection Law went into effect. The new privacy law from Beijing is meant to “curb data collection by technology companies,” the Journal says.
LOL. First of all, any Chinese law that claims to protect users from internet services just means the government is trying to oust companies that won’t retain shitloads of data for the Chinese government to rifle through at will. The Chinese government does not care about the privacy of its citizens and it never will.
Second of all, any American tech company that willingly continues to do business does so at the government’s pleasure. Cooperation with the Chinese government means being implicated in everything from jailing journalists to vanishing the country’s Muslim population into political prisons. No company should want to be a part of that, no matter how really cool a billion users might sound.
Yahoo’s announcement is a bit too belated to have much of an impact, however. It hasn’t been relevant for years, which means most of the gasps in its direction are from people surprised the company still exists. And this exit strategy has been in the works for most of a decade at this point. Yahoo Mail was ejected from China in 2013 and Yahoo’s holding company has been winding down its Chinese-based operations since then, obviously expecting the day would come when it would be no longer possible (or wise) to continue as subservient to the Chinese censorship apparatus.
But once you’ve lost Yahoo… as the saying goes. There’s not much left for Chinese citizens to work with that isn’t at least indirectly controlled by the Chinese government. Pulling out may leave Chinese residents with precious few options for uncensored communications, but staying put means allying with a government that’s shown an alarming willingness to be all the bad things people have attributed to it over the years. It loves capitalism, but only when it can control it. And it abhors anything it can’t.
American companies have either found the exit or been shown it by the Chinese government several times over the past decade. Those who have found the exit on their own can at least say they did it voluntarily, even if this statement comes years after it has any meaningful impact.