Friday, October 07, 2005

Sucking up to dictators

This blog is among the first to proclaim that the spreading internet and the blogosphere are instruments of freedom (the exact opposite, curiously enough, of what sci-fi writers used to predict, seeing technology solely as an instrument of power). But are the providers of this as interested in freedom as one would like them to be and as they all too often proclaim?

Recently we had news of Yahoo passing the name of a Chinese dissident on to the Chinese government, who promptly imprisoned the man for ten years. It seems that Google does not fare much better, though they have not, as yet, passed names on to the Chinese police.

So anxious is Google, together with the other big internet companies, to get into China and the Chinese market that they forget their oft-repeated allegiance to freedom.

Google has now decided to designate Taiwan as a “province of China”, a move that has not been greeted with joy in the former. The excuse is that Google is following the UN’s lead. The UN, of course, would like to see Taiwan, a growing democracy, to disappear into the maws of the People’s Republic of China, one of the most oppressive regimes around.

Indeed, Taiwan’s recent application to re-join the UN was dismissed after a discussion of 24 minutes. Lunch was beckoning, one must assume.

According to the Wall Street Journal Europe [subscription only], Google’s Chinese news service removes the mention of any sites the Beijing government disapproves of.

One wonders whether that is more shocking than the fact that Google follows the UN’s instructions of what to put on the map.

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