Beijing’s New Enforcer: Microsoft

From the New York Times:

Microsoft has silenced a well-known blogger in China for committing journalism. At the Chinese government’s request, the company closed the blog of Zhao Jing on Dec. 30 after he criticized the government’s firing of editors at a progressive newspaper. Microsoft, which also acknowledges that its MSN Internet portal in China censors searches and blogs, is far from alone. Recently Yahoo admitted that it had helped China sentence a dissident to 10 years in prison by identifying him as the sender of a banned e-mail message.

Original news here:…

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I hope Malaysian government will not see Microsoft as an Internet authority. But it is a scary thought, as only recently we can see Malaysians maximizing utilization of the Internet. (And some government officials still doesn’t know how to use e-mail or worst even scared to touch the mouse). I still remember 8 years ago when people only knows how to use mIRC and play games on their PCs. Well, probably still. I read somewhere that on X% of Malaysians have broadbands at their homes. YES!! Single digit. 🙁

Oh well, I can still remember some people being so amazed when I played MP3 on my notebook. Yes, there exists people like that even now, in the city of Kuala Lumpur.

Even as Internet use explodes in China, Beijing is cracking down on free expression, and Western technology firms are leaping to help. The companies block access to political Web sites, censor content, provide filtering equipment to the government and snitch on users. Companies argue that they must follow local laws, but they are also eager to ingratiate themselves with a government that controls access to the Chinese market.

Such obvious disregard for users’ privacy and ethical standards may make it easier to do business in China, but it also aids a repressive regime. Some in the American Congress are talking about holding hearings. Microsoft has responded to criticism by saying, “We think it’s better to be there with our services than not be there.” This is a false choice. China needs Internet companies as much as they need China.

A decade ago, consumers began to rebel against the sweatshop practices of Western manufacturers that made clothes and toys in China and elsewhere. The smart businesses cleaned up. They formed associations to adopt codes of good labor practices and set up independent monitoring.

Reporters Without Borders, a group advocating press freedom, recommends that Internet companies also adopt a good conduct code, pledging not to filter out words like “democracy” and “human rights” from search engines and maintaining their e-mail and Internet servers outside China.

Western businesses have always overestimated the price of defending human rights in China. Some have done it effectively – privately and respectfully – and paid no cost. But the beauty of such an industrywide code of conduct for Internet companies is that it would put no company at a disadvantage.

Western technology companies could have a powerful case if they acted as a group in telling China that they are under tremendous consumer and political pressure to stick up for free expression.