Monday, August 27, 2007

Threat to freedom of speech: Yahoo, Google, Microsoft

Well, really the threat comes from the government of China, but the three major internet companies have signed contracts with China which have the potential for serious damage. They've agreed to provide that government with the personal information on bloggers who post "offensive" material -- including any statements made against the government, and the hard-line government of China gets to decide what qualifies as "offensive".

Yahoo has already buckled under the intense pressure of hearing "pretty please or we'll stop all your business connections in your second-largest market". As a result of surrendering just such information, one blogger was carted away to prison in China. As Roger L. Simon put it,
In the case of Yahoo, their cooperation in providing an IP address to Chinese authorities led to a ten-year sentence for journalist Shi Tao for “divulging state secrets abroad”.

In his September 2005 report, Simon quoted Reporters Without Borders this way:
"Information supplied by Yahoo ! led to the conviction of a good journalist who has paid dearly for trying to get the news out. It is one thing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government's abuses and it is quite another thing to collaborate."

Roger Simon has a suggestion for dealing with this threat to liberty, and it sounds like a good tool, to me.
From this moment on, I will not write about the Beijing Olympics unless the subject at hand is censorship and repression in China. And – unless the Chinese government changes its policies – when the Olympics do come, I will not blog about them at all. I will take the opportunity to write as often as I can about the lack of Freedom of Speech on the Chinese Internet and on the suppression of bloggers and journalists in that country.
Read the rest of it. Then consider the potential if we all follow his lead.

(HT: God's right-hand keyboard enthusiast ;-) )

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