Asiapundit first sounded the alarm. Now it's confirmed. All Typepad blogs, including this one, cannot be seen in China. (Note that Blogger has been blocked in China for some time.) I asked some people in China to attempt accessing this blog and a long list of other random Typepad blogs (including ones that never discuss China), without using a proxy. None could be accessed. Now all Typepad blogs wanting to be seen in China will have to migrate to another blog hosting service or onto an independent server. Meanwhile, Asiapundit has created a series of graphics like the one on the right which you can put on your blocked blog to help create awareness of the problem.
The Chinese government is mainly to blame for this, but it's important to consider the way in which U.S. technology is being used to stifle free speech in China - and the extent to which U.S. companies are responsible for this usage. This includes not only Microsoft, but also Cisco Systems and others. Here is what Reporters Without Borders had to say about Cisco's complicity in a recent report:
The architecture of the Chinese Internet was designed from the outset to allow information control. There are just five backbones or hubs through which all traffic must pass. No matter what ISP is chosen by Internet users, their e-mails and the files they download and send must pass through one of these hubs.
China then acquired state-of-the-art technology and equipment from US companies. Cisco Systems has sold China several thousand routers at more that 16,000 euros each for use in building the regime's surveillance infrastructure. This equipment was programmed with the help of Cisco engineers. It allows the authorities to read data transmitted on the Internet and to spot "subversive" key words. The police are able to identify who visits banned sites and who sends "dangerous" e-mail messages.
As this excellent article on the issue points out, Cisco denies direct complicity. There is also an argument to be made that the existence of Cisco routers in China on the whole has done more to facilitate free speech than to stifle it.
It's a complicated issue. We need greater scrutiny of U.S. tech companies in China by bloggers, journalists, human rights activists, and anybody who cares about free speech and corporate accountability. We need more information about what these companies actually know when they are selling their products and services. To what extent are they actively providing service and support for uses that are clearly aimed to stifle free speech?
Why doesn't the Global Internet Freedom Act address corporate complicity at all? If you're American, write your congressperson and demand that it should.