Helping the Chinese government (and making $$ to boot!)

Staci Kramer at Paid Content is one of many writing this week about how U.S. giants like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! are helping facilitate Chinese censorship of the Web. This is a sad happening that we all need to be talking about, for by helping the Chinese government create blocks in the free flow of information, we’re just looking the other way until it happens to us.

Rebecca MacMillon, who has dedicated her recent life to human rights and specifically the worthwhile Global Voices project, sees through what these companies are doing. She worked nine years in a row as a journalist in China and knows the government well.

The issue is whether Microsoft should be collaborating with the Chinese régime as it builds an increasingly sophisticated system of Internet censorship and control. Declining to collaborate with this system is not “forcing the Chinese into a position they don’t believe in.” Declining to collaborate would be the only way to show that your stated belief in free speech is more than…empty words. If you believe that Chinese people deserve the same respect as Americans, then please put your money where your mouth is.

But let’s not single out Microsoft for trashing on this point…China’s filtering, censorship, and surveillance systems wouldn’t be what they are today without lots of help from a number of North American technology companies.

In the name of free enterprise, Americans so far have acquiesced in U.S. companies’ collaboration in the building and reinforcement of the Great Chinese Firewall. The Global Internet Freedom Act is being revived again in congress; but while the Act would allocate money to develop censorship-busting technologies, it makes zero mention of the U.S. companies whose technologies and software services are helping to strengthen this very censorship.

…I can tell you one more thing about the Chinese. They hear what you say, then they watch how you do business. From there, it’s pretty easy to figure out what your real values are.

I don’t trust anybody in this situation, least of all the bullshit we hear from our government. Want to stop a revolution? Control the mechanism through which it’s growing. You think I’m the only person to think of that?

These corporations are innovating in areas they ought not to be playing. The moral issues aside, we owe it to the belief in our own freedoms to not do business this way.

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