January 31, 2007

Global Internet Freedom, aka Company Censorship Collaboration Squirmfest

AP: Tech Firms Seek Action on Net Censorship: "WASHINGTON (AP) - American technology giants urged the U.S. government Tuesday to do more to confront China and other countries about Internet censorship."

And how to confront? To wit:

Andrew McLaughlin, senior counsel for Google, told a State Department-sponsored conference on Internet freedom that his company is trying to use its presence in countries that are restrictive to provide communication options, such as e-mail and blogs, for people who may not have other ways to talk to each other freely.

Ah, blog-evangelism. But the obvious counter-argument is that Google's services of "e-mail and blogs" form an incredibly centralized honey-pot of monitoring and censorship for those restrictive governments to monitor and censor. And those governments won't be playing around with puny subpoenas for research over which Google can make a huge PR fuss. They'll just order Google to provide them with "dissident alerts".

McLaughlin urged the U.S. government to fight for technology and information companies' rights in the international trade arena.

"What we need is for censorship to be treated as a trade barrier and be put right up at the top of our agenda when it comes to bilateral" free trade agreements, he said.

Ha ha ha. The man is funny. Part of being a lawyer is training to make outrageous arguments with a straight face. Free trade agreements do not exactly have a distinguished record as tools for human rights enforcement. Though I appreciate the rhetorical purpose of the argument, the deflection of the issue into what would certainly be an economic-growth-solves-everything response (but it would be someone else's response, and so get Google off the hook).

Now, I'll grant this is not a simple problem, because of the obvious dilemma that any company which doesn't go along with repression loses market share to a company which will (which is in fact an argument for a legislative approach). On the other hand, I don't have too much sympathy for the companies involved trying to weasel it away.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 31, 2007 12:55 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Ah, the good old finger-pointing circle.

Posted by: Philipp Lenssen at January 31, 2007 07:53 PM