Salon reports on internet censorship in China and the complicity of US companies. There’s not a lot of new information in it, but it’s nice to see that the topic is still interesting to Western media. Reproduced in full by Howard French.:
About once a month executives from China’s Internet news sites gather in a small meeting room on the first floor of Beijing’s Information Office, where a government official tells them what not to report. China’s Internet giants all send representatives, as does the China branch of one of America’s best-known icons: Yahoo. The visitors take notes and ask few questions.
On especially sensitive days, the speaker is the office’s director, Wang Hui, a woman whom an attendee of the meetings describes as pleasant and informal, with her hair cut short in the classic style of a Chinese bureaucrat. "Her demeanor is friendly," says the attendee, who requested anonymity because describing the meetings could lead to arrest. "We have known each other for a long time, and our companies are very cooperative."
The meetings are part of a system of Internet censorship that combines technological filters, human monitors and threats of detention to systematically suppress political speech. With more than 100 million regular Internet users, China is second only to the United States in terms of potential customers. But the Chinese government holds Web sites responsible for the content they and their users provide. Although much of the censorship gets carried out by the state, the authorities also rely heavily on the private sector.
To conduct business in China, popular Internet companies Yahoo, Microsoft and Google have had to accommodate a regime that forbids free speech, bars political parties and jails journalists. This means filtering searches on their sites, censoring news and providing evidence in the trials of political dissidents — or risk having their sites blocked in China. Forced to choose between ignoring the world’s hottest market or implicitly endorsing a system of censorship that a recent Harvard study called "the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world," the companies have decided to cooperate.
"Business is business," Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba.com, which controls Yahoo China, told the Financial Times. "It’s not politics."
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Mao: The Unknown Story - by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday:
A controversial and damning biography of the Helmsman.
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