Friday, January 15, 2010

fascist regimes are undermined by the internet

I may no longer be able to say that Google does some evil.

XIAO QIANG, director, China Internet Project, University of California at Berkeley
XIAO QIANG: Well, this -- we really should put this context of the Google event in a larger context, which is, it's not Google vs. China. It's more Internet vs. the authoritarian regime, the Chinese authoritarian regime, because, fundamentally, the Internet is an enabler.

It's empowering people the capacity to organize information, to effectively use information, and also to work together, collaboration, and even mobilize collective actions.

From those point of view, Google's services and products are just, for those leading services, empowering people to do so. And the Chinese government fundamentally cannot live in peace with such empowering factor of technology. Therefore, they cannot live in peace with Google, period.

So, when the Internet is getting larger and larger in China, the Internet users are more and more politically active, and the political speeches have become more and more proactive, then the government has to intensify its censorship measure higher and higher degree, and then to the point that the company like a Google cannot take it any more. So, this is fundamentally an issue of China's government vs. Internet.

Whether Google is there or not, the story will continue.
- Google's Threats to Leave China Renew Censorship Concerns
The offical Google blog announcement: A New Approach to China

Ethan Zuckerman has a more detailed analysis: Four possible explanations for Google's big China move:
  • Google decided to stop being evil
  • Google retreated from a very tough market
  • Google abandoned Chinese users
  • Google is about to join the front lines of the anticensorship wars (very interesting)

1 comment:

Kev said...

This will be interesting. After reading your post and then the link to Google's official blog, I think that of the four possible explanations you noted, it's not that Google is retreating from a very tough market, nor is that Google has abandoned Chinese users. It's more the 1st and 4th explanations: Google decided to stop being evil (or more precisely, decided they'd given the Chinese government enough of a chance - that is borderline evil perhaps?) and Google is about to join the front lines of the anticensorship wars, which will be good. I don't think there's a government on Earth that isn't concerned about how the Internet gives people power.
Also related to this (but in Australia), did you see this article? "Google agrees to take down racist site". The article makes the mistake (several times) of confusing Google "removing the site" with the actuality of what Google had to do, namely, remove the _links_ to the racist site from its search results. The article ends with:
"Mr Newhouse said Google agreed to take the link down after he filed an official complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

"Lo and behold they agreed last night to take down the sites."

Mr Newhouse believes the site would be filtered under the Federal Government's mandatory filter.

"Sites that promote racial vilification would actually fall within that description [illegal sites] and therefore would be filtered."

The Federal Government plans to introduce legislation this year requiring all service providers to ban "refused classification" material.