Did Steve Ballmer really call free speech laws in the U.S. “extreme” and draw parallels between anti-child pornography laws and China’s suppression of information relating to human rights? Or is Forbes’ account of his speech before oil industry execs an unfair recap of what he said?
Tag Archives | China
Clearing up confusion on Google’s China move (the company isn’t a flop in that country, and hasn’t already begun uncensoring its search results).
Excellent editorial from the Washington Post on the Google-China situation (one of many, not all coming to the same conclusions).
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For as long as western companies have been doing business in China–under Chinese laws–there’s been a fundamental question that’s been a subject of immense controversy: Are they helping to make China more free, or are they helping the Chinese government prevent more freedom?
Until now, Google has been one of a number of U.S. Web companies that has willingly provided a censored version of its services in China as a prerequisite of doing business there. It’s maintained that providing the Chinese people with access to some information is better than denying them access to Google entirely, and its Chinese search engine has carried a disclaimer that some links are suppressed.
But now that’s changing. In a fascinating blog post, Google has disclosed that it discovered a sophisticated hacker attack on its systems in mid-December. Its investigation revealed that the target was the accounts of Chinese human rights activists, and that the attack encompassed other large companies. It further found that the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists had been breached through such means as malware installed on their computers.
New regulations handed down by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology over the weekend seem to suggest China may be creating a “whitelist” of approved websites. The Ministry said it is now requiring all websites to register, or face possible blocking by the authorities.
China’s latest censorship move seems born out of an effort to limit pornography, however critics seem to see porn being used as an excuse for broader net controls. Whether or not this extends to websites based outside of the country is unclear, although Chinese media is reporting that it will. If it goes through, the strategy would be a complete reversal of the way Chinese Internet regulators were previously doing business.
Under the previous system, websites were blocked on a case by case basis as soon as the Ministry learned about them. Here, everybody seems blacklisted first — and have to prove their non-subversiveness before being allowed into the walled garden that is the Chinese Internet.
The idea may be dead in the water: China could hurt itself economically as those who use the Internet to trade goods may find themselves unable to do business if the foreign site does not register. Additionally, the country does have a fairly long record of coming up with half-baked censorship schemes that are either not enforced or reversed after international outcry. A whitelist is certainly something that would cause the latter, I’d venture to guess.
China also last week limited .cn registrations to business users, Time reported last Friday. As far as I know, it would be the only TLD where private citizens are prohibited from purchasing domains. I wonder if ICANN would have something to say about that.
News sites in China are now being required to obtain the true identities of their commenters, likely in an attempt to suppress and deter so-called “subversive” behavior. Previously, commenters had been offered a bit more anonymity where they could either post without registering at all or with much less personal information.
The new policy took effect last month and requires a real name and government issued identification number. This would positively identify every commenter on top of their already traceable IP address.
It appears from news reports that the government has tried to keep its involvement in the change under wraps, working to suppress reports on the matter in the media. It has worked for much of this decade on bringing a “real name” system to the Chinese Internet, and those in China say this is likely just the beginning.
There’s also another reason why the government didn’t want this publicized: it is unpopular and previous attempts have gotten a lot of blowback. China tried in 2006 to implement the policy on blogs, but after prominent bloggers in the country came out against the new policy and the public also overwhelmingly opposed it, the country backed off.
Local officials tried it too: Hangzhou officials wanted a similar policy for all who post on sites in the city earlier this year, however again public criticism killed the government’s plans.
It is certainly disappointing to see China once again working to curtail their citizens rights. The “subversion” tactic is something they use frequently: in most cases it’s an excuse to prevent free speech. Truly, there isn’t much that can be said that could truly disrupt the country.
What they’re paranoid of is the fact that there is a large portion of their population that wants freedom of speech and to be able to speak out. What China’s learning now is that in the digital age, that’s going to be much harder than ever to control.
(Cross posted from TechPolitik)
Apple has confirmed that an employee of its Chinese manufacturing partner Foxconn committed suicide last week. Various online reports say that the staffer, Sun Danyong, was responsible for iPhone prototypes and took his own life after one disappeared. And some stories are saying that Foxconn’s security department may have harshly interrogated or beaten him.
It’s hard to know what to make of this without definitive facts on what happened–the fact that it happened so far away, and that some of the coverage is in another language, doesn’t help clarify things. One story quotes a Foxconn spokesperson as saying “regardless of the reason of Sun’s suicide, it is to some extent a reflection of Foxconn’s internal management deficiencies.” That’s either a misquote or an example of amazing honesty that you’d never hear from an American PR person. But Daring Fireball’s John Gruber is right: Apple needs to find out what happened, and needs to be prepared to fire Foxconn if it’s enforcing Apple-related security by assaulting its own employees.
Special pre-Apple WWDC edition:
Google has found itself on the other side of China’s “great firewall'” of Internet censorship. YouTube is presently inaccessible in China, while its foreign minister has assured Reuters that the ruling party is “not afraid of the Internet.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters that he had no knowledge about YouTube being blocked, but Google confirmed to Reuters that the service is unavailable to users in China. The company said that it was working toward a solution, and avoided placing blame on the Chinese government.
The Chinese government has a longstanding practice of filtering Internet traffic by using techniques such as DNS poisoning. Its targets have traditionally included news, religious groups, and anything else that could be construed as critical of its policies, as well as pornography.
According to Reuters, Qin said that Internet regulation was necessary in order to prevent the spread of,”harmful information and for national security.” He also said that China’s 300 million Internet users and 100 million blogs was proof that China’s Internet was “open enough.”
If the government has objected to YouTube’s content, it is likely that Google may cooperate in censoring it, as it does with Google Web search. In any event, here are some YouTube videos that its citizens are missing, with apologies to the ruling party:
Tiananmen Square Protests:
Protesting Parents of Earthquake Victims Jailed:
Human Rights: Dissidents Placed in Mental Hospitals:
Support for Sudanese War Criminals: