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On Wednesday Republicans and Democrats in Congress rebuked Microsoft for participating in Chinese censorship. Bill Gates, company founder defends the decision, stating, "You've got to decide. Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you're in, or not?"

Chinese people show their appreciation for Google's decision to stand up to their government's censorship.  (Source: Guardian UK)
Rep. Smith, R-N.J.:"They [Microsoft] need to get on the right side of human rights rather than enabling tyranny, which they're doing right now."

There has been much talk about Google's decision to pull out of China while Microsoft has remained directly complicit in Chinese internet censorship.  Today a bipartisan U.S. Congressional panel praised Google's actions, while admonishing Microsoft.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D warned, "China wants to participate in the marketplace of goods but keep the marketplace of ideas outside their country.  Only when China respects human rights and allows the free flow of ideas ... only then will they be treated as a full member of the international community."

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. praised Google, commenting that the company's decision to uncensor its Chinese search was "a remarkable, historic and welcomed action."

GoDaddy, the popular domain registration service, also was praised by Rep. Smith for pulling out of China due to privacy violations.  Microsoft, however, received a rebuke from the Representative.  He stated, "They [Microsoft] need to get on the right side of human rights rather than enabling tyranny, which they're doing right now."

Microsoft insists it is merely following the local law.  A company statement read, "We appreciate that different companies may make different decisions based on their own experiences and views.  At Microsoft we remain committed to advancing free expression through active engagement in over 100 countries, even as we comply with the laws in every country in which we operate."

The statement echoes the words of Microsoft former CEO, co-founder, and renowned philanthropist Bill Gates, who in January remarked, "You've got to decide.  Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you're in, or not?"

China agrees.  Its China's State Council Information Office comments, "Foreign companies need to abide by China's laws when they operate in China.  Google violated it's promise."

The issue is made more complex by the fact that Google has in the past censored search results in other countries, such as Thailand, Turkey, France [see the Wikipedia page on Google's past censorship for more info].  Google has made no suggestion that it will reject censorship in the future.  Nonetheless, its uncensoring of its Chinese search is perhaps the highest profile example of defiance against online censorship in terms of number of people affected.

Microsoft, on the other hand, says it is opposed to Chinese censorship, but continues to participate in it.  It enjoys a wonderful opportunity to capture more of China's close to 400 million internet users with Google out of the picture

A new law may make it more embarrassing for Microsoft to stay this course.  The Global Online Freedom Act, a bipartisan initiative pending in Congress, would force U.S. firms to disclose what materials they are censoring in foreign nations -- including China -- in effect airing search firms' dirty laundry to the public.

Back in China, the government imposed backlash against Google picked up in earnest with China Unicom and other business officially giving the Google search engine the boot.  China Unicom, the nation's second largest carrier, did not announce and immediate replacement.  It has been speculated that it may stop selling Android handsets or at least stop releasing new models, however, those claims have yet to be validated.  It seems clear, however, that the Chinese government is infuriated and Google will likely face more repercussions in coming weeks.



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RE: Ignoring Local Laws
By Ard on 3/26/2010 9:52:50 AM , Rating: 1
Unethical or illegal to who? If you say to us or the "western world", I have a real issue with that. The problem the US has is they believe that their way is the only way to do things. If you don't support democracy, you're nothing more than an idiotic fascist dictator. This country is stuck in its "we've gotta police the world" state. Do I agree with censorship? No. But I'm not going to tell another country that they can't enforce that policy in their own society under the guise of human rights. When the Chinese get tired of censorship, it'll change, just like our country did when it was tired of the lack of civil/voting rights for women and blacks. It is not our place to tell the Chinese when they should change or how they should do it.

Gates is absolutely right: the law is the law. If we can just ignore another country's laws, why don't I just ignore the US' precious IP/DMCA laws?


RE: Ignoring Local Laws
By daInvincibleGama on 3/27/2010 12:41:18 AM , Rating: 2
"Unethical or illegal to who?"

Unethical to everybody, including American consumers of Google products and services.

"If you say to us or the "western world", I have a real issue with that. The problem the US has is they believe that their way is the only way to do things."

If by "their way" you mean no forcible disappearances and persecution of people that disagree, then yeah, it should be the only way to do things. People have the right to live their lives, even if the govt. disagrees with what they believe.

"If you don't support democracy, you're nothing more than an idiotic fascist dictator."

Yeah. Pretty much the definition.

"This country is stuck in its "we've gotta police the world" state."

We have a right to condemn what we see as wrong.

"Do I agree with censorship? No."

Great.

"But I'm not going to tell another country that they can't enforce that policy in their own society under the guise of human rights."

Right. Human rights is a guise. The Chinese government can, with no justification, create a 'policy' of punishing people for expressing opinions they disagree with or bring violence upon people that demand a voice and basic political rights.

"When the Chinese get tired of censorship, it'll change, just like our country did when it was tired of the lack of civil/voting rights for women and blacks."

Excuse me, but when might the Chinese government get tired of censorship? And also, when were the Chinese people NOT tired of censorship?

"It is not our place to tell the Chinese when they should change or how they should do it."

We are as free to express our opinions and criticisms of their policies as they are to do the converse.

"Gates is absolutely right: the law is the law."

Would you say the same about such laws as the Fugitive Slave Acts and Jim Crow laws? Do you really assume that law, especially when created by authoritarian regimes, is always reasonable and legitimate?

"If we can just ignore another country's laws, why don't I just ignore the US' precious IP/DMCA laws?"

We can, and will, ignore another country's laws as much as we want as long as we are on our own free soil.


RE: Ignoring Local Laws
By thrust2night on 3/28/2010 3:00:01 PM , Rating: 1
You jackass. You are unnecessarily twisting his words. If the American government really likes what Google did then why the fuck are we so in debt to China? Why doesn't the government stop all trade with China and make it illegal for American companies to do business there?

Sure we have the right to condemn what we see as wrong, but its also hypocritical that our government continues to do business with China while our companies have to live up to a good role model.


RE: Ignoring Local Laws
By Lerianis on 3/28/2010 10:14:32 PM , Rating: 2
You hit the nail right on the head when you brought up the Jim Crow laws and the Fugitive Slave Acts.

If we are going to say that someone has to obey 'all the laws'... we had better freaking well make sure that all our laws are not discriminatory against a group of people and are not trying to force the 'morality' of anyone on people who don't want to adhere to it, unless they are physically harming someone else without their permission.


RE: Ignoring Local Laws
By jconan on 3/28/2010 11:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
Gates is right!!!

WHEN IN ROME, DO AS THE ROMANS DO...


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