June 20, 2005

China, Microsoft, Censorship, etc. etc.

I feel I have an obligation to post something about the Microsoft/China/Blog censorship issues (what a combination!). Yet I don't really have much original to say. The comparatively few people reading me are likely civil-libertarians already, so why clog the web with yet another post on it (or "opposition research" from censorware-makers, same issue from a different perspective)?

There's a few Lessig-style code-is-law implications, about how government and large businesses can work together to enforce control. But I'm not sure this incident works well as a teachable moment about the concept. When some people see a large corporation doing the bidding of a repressive government, it tends to reinforce the simplistic "government-bad/business-good" framework, and they'll just conclude all the bad aspects of the situation should be attributed to the bad government.

The government of China sure doesn't care what I think.

Any issue of censorship has a whole host of generic arguments, ranging from extreme moral relativism ("But it's a traditional culture value to burn heretics"), to cheap contrarianness ("I say heretics should be burned, and the reaction shows I'm being persecuted for my courageous stance against the totalitarian orthodoxy of permissiveness!"). Those are being iterated over ad nauseum.

There's also the free-speech politics as it affects me. I have some thoughts regarding various projects in the air. But I tend to keep them to myself. Given various players involved, negative comments from me would just come across as sniping, and positive comments would set me up to look very bad if I was asked to follow through (i.e., if I said "X is a bad idea, it won't work", well, it's not my project, so that sounds like carping. If I do "[Think: X is a bad idea, Y is a bad idea, there might be something in Z - say:] Z sounds so neat!", then if someone says "We're doing the X,Y,Z project, why not get involved?", I'll then look like I'm making excuses for not walking the walk). I managed to navigate my way around one of these dilemmas a while back, taking no damage, but it was choppy seas, and things have just gotten worse for me since then. I sometimes joke, I don't to want to deal with stressful software-project politics even for lots of money, much less no (or very little) money. I suspect somebody will end up getting a grant for the topic. But I'm nowhere near connected enough to be in the running for such a grant (as well as lacking the sales skills).

Oh, China Herald is a good non-echo-chamber site.

Hopefully I have now fulfilled my "obligations" on this topic.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on June 20, 2005 05:36 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage