Monday, January 09, 2006

Live in China? Then you're not reading this.

China has been receiving help from such companies as Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in the filtering of Internet searches within the country. Concurring Opinions offered some insight into the situation by asking, "Is it acceptable when Yahoo or Google help France and Germany filter out pro-Nazi websites? Hypothetically, would it have been acceptable for Yahoo or Google to have helped the Nazi regime in identifying Jews? Where should the line be drawn?"

Most recently, Microsoft worked with Beijing officials to shut down the site of a Chinese blogger who opposed the countries political and social actions. The Associated Press reports, "Microsoft's China-based web-log-hosting service shut down the blog at the Chinese government's request, said Brooke Richardson, group product manager with Microsoft's MSN online division at the company headquarters in Redmond, Washington."

Companies like Microsoft and Google are not guided with a moral compass. Those, and any other company looking to make a profit, are guided by capitalist principles (and there is nothing wrong with that). As China opens up more and more for venture opportunities, we will begin seeing a greater number of companies selling their soul for economical greed.

In November 2005 a global summit convened to try and solve an array of issues. Among those was a shift of Internet control to a global level. Several countries —— including China, Cuba and Iran —— formed a coalition intent on "(wresting) control of the Internet from the United States ..."

Shortly after the summit, several interesting events occurred. The first involved a Chinese blackout of the news media and the Internet after several demonstrators were murdered by police. In referring to the atrocity, Reporters Without Borders noted China's constrictive measures taken to whitewash press coverage of the event. Efforts included the successful coverup of an Internet message about the police action that eventually distorted global views of the events surrounding the demonstration and subsequent events. Reporters Without Borders noted, "It is a striking demonstration of China’s capacity to censure both the traditional media and the Internet."

In a similar vane, Iran holds a death grip on its national media outlets and the Internet. Late last year the story came out about Omid Sheikhan, an Iranian blogger sentenced to a year in prison and 124 lashes for satirizing his country's political leaders.

Control of the blogging community is also an issue here in the United States. Whether it's the censorship of a university student accused of violating professional conduct codes or Eugene Kane's interest in blog control, there are definitive attacks on freedom of speech. However, there is a conflict of knowledge many have regarding the important role libel plays in controlling in a protective manner the aforementioned freedom of speech.

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