Saturday, February 18, 2006

A fine moment for democracy in the USA

There was an item in The Australian today (sourced from The Times) that highlighted one of the finer moments of the democratic system in the USA.

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems copped a pasting from the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights, in particular the committee chairman, Chris Smith (Republican).

Drawing parallels with IBM’s collaboration with Nazi Germany, Mr Smith said: “US technology companies today are engaged in a similar sickening collaboration, decapitating the voice of dissidents. Women and men are going to the gulag and being tortured as a direct result of information handed over to Chinese officials.”

As is so often the case in the USA, it’s the legislature that’s driving the push for the proverbial freedom and liberty.

As reported, the arguments of counsel for Yahoo, et al, seemed comparatively lame, to say the least.

For example, “Yahoo argued that the presence of the internet in China did good, even when censored.”

Hmm, fair enough... much as lead has some relatively benign applications besides the making of bullets.

Yahoo faced the harshest criticism. The company was accused of giving Chinese authorities personal information about users of its email service that led to the jailing of two dissidents.

Shi Tao, a journalist who used an anonymous Yahoo email account, was sentenced last year to 10 years’ jail after sending a government message about the Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary to foreign colleagues. ...

Michael Callahan, [Yahoo’s] general counsel, said that in the case of Shi Tao, Yahoo was unaware of the intentions of the Chinese Government, and the company was legally obliged to comply with China’s demands.

Exactly!! “We wuz only following orders, m’lud!” Where have we heard that shtick before?

At least Google, in its business plan for China, resolved not to provide email and other such services so that it could avoid such conflicts.

But, one wonders, if Google were to provide such services to Chinese citizens, would it do the noble thing and refuse to comply with its “legal” obligations to the Chinese Government?


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