Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Congress Holds Hearings on Google in China

Congress is putting pressure on Google and other Internet content providers to resist China's attempts to censor Internet content (see article here). The House subcommittee on Global Human Rights sees Google's participation in Internet censorship as aiding the Chinese government's efforts to stifle free expression, something that a U.S. corporation should not do. The problem: not every country has the same protections for free expression that we have. Bill Gates even noted that Germany has more restrictive rules than the U.S. So, what should companies like Google do...bow to foreign censorship demands or forego the opportunity to bring the Internet to the world (and revenues to their shareholders)? And should Congress be involved in this decision?

5 Comments:

Blogger limewash said...

Purely from a business perspective, Google should move into the Chinese market with the necessary changes to meet the Chinese government's demands, because it makes business sense. From a social (and practical) perspective, I think Google should do it because a little knowledge is better than no knowledge; in general, I think the Chinese public, even being able to access some things through Google search, will be better off/farther along than without. I don't think, even with attempted filtering on Google's part on behalf of the Chinese government, that they will be able to censor everything to an extent that it will not still have a positive impact on the demands of the Chinese public to have more access. In my experience, having nothing leads to no desire, but having even a little leads to a desire for more. It will add pressure to the Chinese govt if its citizens demand more access.

From a legal perspective, Congress should leave Google alone, because in making this deal, Google does not break any American laws.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Edward Lee said...

Well put, limewash. BTW, what does limewash mean?

12:19 PM  
Blogger limewash said...

I guess it could literally mean a lime coating (compared to white wash) or it could be a lime-flavored mouthwash.

Or it doesn't/does mean anything. :)

I just like the word, and use it as a nick now and then.

I define it as a rebirth, with a fresh scent (i.e., as in washing the slate clean with lime juice).

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"From a social (and practical) perspective, I think Google should do it because a little knowledge is better than no knowledge; in general, I think the Chinese public, even being able to access some things through Google search, will be better off farther along than without."

This argument rests on a premise that I would disagree as to its accuracy. Is a little knowledge better than no knowledge? I doubt it. When one has a little knowledge but not enough to get a full grasp of all the issues, the possibilities of a misunderstanding and abuses based on them are high. Not to mention the fact that the introduction of a little knowledge may lead to a hunger for greater knowledge, which could end in the death of a lot of people because they would be facing a government that is not known for tolerating political dissent. We'll back them by introducing the information, but when this causes civil problems in China that leads to violence, do we want to follow through with military force? Paranoia? It's happened before. I just think the issues are a little more complex than we have made them out to be. There are a number of reasons why I think that no knowledge may be better than partial knowledge, but that's not really the point in this comment.

I wanted to write to point out that there are views that go the opposite way. I read an article that dealt with the human rights abuses going on in China and the ways in which U.S. corporations may be helping, if not fully supporting these abuses. Do I agree with the article? Probably not. But it is worth reading for an alternative opinion on this subject.

See, Aiding the Enemy: Imposing Liability on U.S. Corporations for Selling China Internet Tools to Restrict Human Rights, 2003 U. Ill. J.L. Tech. & Pol'y 503.

Sorry this post is anonymous, I couldn't remember my password.

Syed

12:15 PM  
Blogger duffee said...

There is another level to this controversy as well since Yahoo, cooperating with the Chinese government's attempts to regulate Internet content and use, voluntarily turned over e-mail records that helped the government imprison a political dissident. So it could be said that Google and Yahoo's efforts to "spread knowledge" are actually helping China stifle political dissent.

12:40 PM  

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