Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"The Nation" Commentary on China Internet Censorship Issue

This is a follow-up to the postings Background to the Google Censorship Issue in China (January 31, 2006), More on the Google China Censorship Controversy (February 1, 2006), and More on China Internet Censorship (February 13, 2006).

The New York-based left-of-centre weekly The Nation printed a web-only opinion piece by Harvard Law School Berkman Center for Internet and Society research fellow Rebecca MacKinnon entitled America's Online Censors [Feb. 24].

In her commentary, she sums up the political situation in China and asks:

"The question is not whether the Chinese Communist Party will succeed in hanging on to power. The real question is, For how long? A few years? A few decades? Another half-century? When change comes, will the new Chinese democrats thank companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Cisco for bringing them the Internet as a catalyst for freedom? Or will they curse them for helping a corrupt and unaccountable regime hang on to power longer than it might have, thus ruining a lot of lives that might otherwise not have been ruined? Will the Chinese thank the American people for their support? Or will they mutter under their breath about hypocrites who talked a big game about freedom and democracy--but who weren't willing to forego a cent of profit to help non-Americans realize those ideals?"

She also differentiates between the positions of the large American Internet corporations accused of helping the Chinese authorities crack down on dissent: "It's important to be clear--as many members of Congress at the hearings [Feb. 15, 2006 hearings] did not appear to be--that these four companies have all made different choices about their business practices in China. They fall at very different points along an 'evil scale.' Here's how they shake down."

She slams Cisco, but gives Google "serious points for considering the human rights implications of its business decisions, and for trying hard to be as transparent and honest with the user as possible..."
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:59 pm

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