In the digital world, free speech reigns…even in China.
Bill Gates recently spoke out to defend Google’s filtering of content to appease the Chinese government. In his defense of Google’s actions, Gates stood with his arch-rival noting that the benefits of a more open dialogue within the nation of China as well as with the outside world would promote engagement & help prevent further censoring. I’d even take this a step further, noting that there are multiple ways around such content filters; as soon as someone creates one, a smarter guy comes along and finds a way around it.
Freedom of expression is a hot topic these days. The cartoons published in Denmark, the “dishonest” discourse railed against by the Bush Whitehouse, and the FCC’s crusade against “indecency.” We need only look to the past to remind ourselves what similar debates have yielded. The question is now, have we learned anything?
Debating how these issues relate to the past would take a lenghty oration, so in the interest of space & time, I’ll be sticking with the subject in the title…
Thomas Friedman’s best seller, “The World Is Flat,” wonderfully documents how the emergence of capitalism, coinciding with new technologies that gave birth to the internet, have put the reality of globalization into hyperdrive. International governments are now facing a flurry of new issues as a result. Labor laws, trade pacts, tariffs, and diplomatic relations; just to name a few of the headliners that political movements around the world must deal with. Some of these movements focus on resisting this change via a policy of isolationism, while others are bravely embracing this new world. Who will prevail?
Resist as they may, this burgeoning reality will be quite difficult to quell. The political issues involved in such discussions evoke a great deal of emotion in both sides; those that see this new world as a threat, as well as those who see it as an opportunity to increase knowledge & freedom for all. The very nature of these new technologies is what is has taken away the power from politicians & governments while actually delivering it to the individual end user. Economically speaking, this applies as well, where there is money to be made (an unmet demand for a good or service), someone is bound to step up to the plate and deliver (supply).
Just as African slaves did in early America, as Jews did in Nazi concentration camps, and as repressed people do all over the world today; they innovate. People in China will do the same; only now, they will have a communications tool which gives them a voice that is far more wide reaching than ever before, the internet.
Google’s most recent go at censoring the content their Chinese site can be found here at Consumerist.com …Interesting.