Microsoft helps China oppress people

Because dissidents in China are just too darned uppity and nobody has the courage to give them the smackdown they deserve, Microsoft is stepping in to help. According to AP, Microsoft shut down a blog on its China hosting service, because the blogger reported on such politically sensitive issues as a strike at the Beijing News. The Chinese government censors reporting on things like strikes, sex, and other unmentionables, and Microsoft requires its bloggers to abide by local laws in the content they post. To be fair, the Chinese government asked Microsoft to help them out here, and Microsoft would probably lose business in China if it refused. All part of running a multinational corporation, maybe, but so is responding to boycotts. So I encourage readers who want to promote human rights and a Free Press to boycott Microsoft products.

In a side note, I can’t help but be reminded of super-architect Rem Koolhaas’s work for CCTV in Beijing. He was slated to design a big new building (now apparently aborted) for the state-controlled TV network, a juggernaut of censorship. He explained his enthusiasm for the project in no uncertain terms, saying that America is dead and China is where it’s at. Which may be true, but there’s a big difference between embracing socialism over imperialism and helping an oppressive government build a nice new headquarters for its censors.

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4 Responses to “Microsoft helps China oppress people”

  1. Andy Says:

    As I understand it, the choice for companies like Microsoft and Google is to host your site inside China where they’re subject to the local laws, or host it outside China where your content can get screened out by the Great Firewall of China. Google, until recently, didn’t host any of their content inside China, but that still didn’t exempt them from some sticky situations.

    On a side note, Microsoft’s statement suggests they don’t care much about the ethical repercussions of their decision: “MSN is committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms and industry practices. Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the Internet safe for local users. Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements.” Make the internet safe for local users?

  2. Anna Says:

    It’s a little-known fact that reading about dissidence actually makes Chinese citizens break out in enormous boils all over their bodies. Very unsafe.

  3. Zubin Says:

    It must be a hard choice for companies that have to pander to “shareholders”. Since shareholders are essentially a great mass of people that don’t really have to feel accountable to anyone, because they own so little of the company. (no judgements, just how it works). But when non profits like the Wikimedia foundation don’t self-censor their content, they are indeed blocked by Chinese censors. Thats why the Chinese Wikipedia has so few articles: nobody in the PRC has access to the uncensored site. There has been some movement to attempt to make a China-compatible project on Wikipedia, but as far as I know, nobody’s done it because it wouldn’t work on Wikipedia. (Oh god I am becoming a Wikipedia zealot…)

  4. Bob Merkin Says:

    Yahoo, of course, just supplied e-mail origin data to the Chinese government that got a dissident whistleblower tossed in prison for ten years. Same rap: When we do business in another nation, we are obligated to abide by their laws yadda yadda

    well Microsoft and Yahoo are coming out of the closet here … when profit is at stake, it has utterly no commitment to Free Speech, and that can’t possibly be just a local loophole in Asian totalitarian markets. The Bush administration is leaning heavily on the telecommunications industry to Play Ball with and make itself transparent to warrantless wiretaps. Five years from now, Microsoft and Yahoo and the other behemoths are signalling that, to stay Huge, they’ll be happy to morph to the China Model of information control. Five years from now, Americans won’t be able to tell the difference between our Internet and e-mail environment and China’s.

    Thanks for focusing on this. It sucks.

    Oh yeah, America’s Dead, China’s where it’s at. Everybody knows that. That’s why all those Chinese students built a huge papier mache Statue of Liberty and demanded Free Speech and Free Political Expression until they were murdered in Tienamen Square.

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