China clamps down on the Net
BEIJING (Reuters) – China set new regulations on Internet news content on Sunday, widening a campaign of controls it has imposed on other Web sites, such as discussion groups.
“The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against national security and public interest,” the official Xinhua news agency said in announcing the new rules, which took effect immediately.
The news agency did not detail the rules, but said Internet news sites must “be directed toward serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests.
After Reporters Without Borders (www.rsf.org)broke the story on Sept. 6, 2005, Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang blandly replied that “To be doing business in China, or anywhere else in the world, we have to comply with local law.”
Indeed, Yahoo! is so enthusiastic to comply with “local law” – however tyrannical and unjust – that in 2002 Yahoo! signed the “Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry” (www.isc.org.cn/20020417/ca102762.htm). Thus, explains Reporters Without Borders, a Chinese Web user who runs a Yahoo! search query for a controversial topic such as “Taiwan independence” will “retrieve only a limited and approved set of results.” If “you try to post a message on the subject in a discussion forum, it never appears online.”
Google and Microsoft have also signed the so-called “Responsibility” code. After the Chinese government blocked Google in 2002, Google modified its Chinese search engine. Google maintains on its own servers a cache of various Web content, so a Chinese surfer previously might have been able to find forbidden content by using the Google cache, rather than reading the content directly from a banned Web site.
In June 2005, Microsoft admitted that it had imposed filters on its Chinese weblogs to block “forbidden words” such as “freedom,” “democracy” and “demonstration.”
I think I have to eat my words. This won’t do at all. If the French want to move in instead and sell the Reds their own surrender-monkey version of Google, then let them do it. I just may have to use my Google holdings to shake their cage!
UPDATE: The ChicagoBoyz approximately agree. On the other hand, a magazine on Chinese law and business — evidently a private one, based in Hong Kong; but of course Hong Kong is China — takes up my original point:
If Yahoo! and the others packed their bags and left this country, freedom of expression would take a step backwards. By their investments in the Chinese Internet, foreign Internet companies have dramatically advanced freedom of expression for a quarter of the people on the planet.
Microsoft, Yahoo!, Cisco, Google etc. are forced into compromises when operating in China, but for every Shi Tao in jail, there are millions of people who have unprecedented access to information from around China and the outside world, thanks in part to those corporations.
This is why you almost never hear complaints about these companies from Chinese people, especially those who remember the pre-Internet age, when the average citizen could not even get hold of a copy of Time magazine.
Hat tip again to Instapundit, which is all over this story.