How’s this for spin…
Tech companies won’t attend D.C. meeting
By FOSTER KLUG
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
WASHINGTON — Representatives from several powerhouse technology companies say they won’t attend a congressional briefing Wednesday meant to shine a spotlight on U.S. Internet businesses operating in China.
Critics have been blasting American companies for helping China’s communist government enforce censorship and silence dissent in return for access to a potentially lucrative market.
If you read this story, one possible and perhaps likely response to this might be that it’s outrageous for such companies as Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft to be supporting censorship and other harsh regulations being imposed by the Chinese government in order to do business there. It’s an outrage isn’t it? Look, even Rep. Chris Smith, Republican chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on global human rights is quoted in an interview as saying:
“This is not benign or neutral,” the lawmaker said of companies acceding to China’s demands. “They have an obligation not to be promoting dictatorship.”
Given that I don’t actually know the opinions of the other members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, I’ll only direct my comments at Rep. Smith, as I find it reprehensible for him to dare to make such comments when the very country we live in today is now riding dangerously close to similar behavior under the guise of freedom and democracy. Was it not only weeks ago that we found out that our government was spying on its own citizens in the name of terrorism but against our nation’s laws?…even with secret courts already in place to maintain the covert nature of these investigations? Was it not only two weeks ago that the Justice Department requested usage information from Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft without offering any significant legal justification for these requests? Was it not Google that fought this request?! Is it not the U.S. Patriot Act that requires any requests by our government for information on any person in this country must be kept secret and violating this secrecy is punishable by law? Where does this guy get the balls to make his comments? It’s arrogant and inappropriate given our own situation.
Doesn’t China have a right to regulate what its citizens see in the same way that the U.S. is now regulating pornography online using child pornography laws that beg the question? What about our own White House administration prohibiting journalists from publishing pictures of the returning caskets of our fallen soliders based on some false moral indignation? Whatever the right thing is, it’s applicable to both countries, not just China.
In my opinion, the tech companies have put themselves in the position to act as utilities and in so doing are not participating in the political agenda of countries. Having said that, I’m not happy when they disclose American citizens’ information here, no more than I like it when Chinese citizens’ information is disclosed there, but having said that, our government officials need to behave with greater humility, and develop an appreciation for resolving those issues in our country before throwing stones at another, and rebuking the companies who at least in some cases are doing their best to keep these political interests in check. Google for example, does tell Chinese users when information has been censored so they are aware of it. They were also the ones to push back on our government’s information requests. I’d love to see Rep. Smith’s list of donors and special interests to get some more insight into his character.
From every one I know who has been to China, specifically to their biggest cities (ie. Shanghai, Beijing, etc.), they come back enthralled that these are bustling metropolis’ with all of the diversions found in our cities. Who do our elected officials think they are in reproaching how the Chinese goverment runs its country? There’s much to be done in our own country and much to do to help the people here gain trust in their government. They should probably focus more on this before going around dictating how other countries ought to regulate their citizens. Enough is enough!!!…do I sound mad?…I’m not, just a little frustrated at seeing culturally incensitive behavior being espoused in the context of morality…again.
***2/1/06 UPDATE: We can now welcome two more congressmen to the hypocrite/arrogant hit parade (where the hits just keep on comin’):
CA Rep Tom Lantos
“Companies that have blossomed and make billions in this country, a country that reveres freedom of speech, have chosen to ignore that core value in expanding their reach overseas, and to erect a Great Firewall to suit Beijing’s purposes,” Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, told the caucus.
OH Rep Tim Ryan
Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, said the companies were “squandering their leverage and U.S. moral authority” with compromises that allowed them to operate in China’s fast-growing market.
Read about it here.