The Christian Science Monitor has a piece today titled China's Model for a Censored Internet about internet censorship in China, and how corporate profit motives could ultimately make the internet a lot less free.
A number of bloggers, including Fons Tuinstra and the Angry Chinese Blogger have been pointing to reports about AOL's choices in China, and how - according to quotes from Time Warner Chief Executive Richard Parsons - AOL turned down a business opportunity because Parsons didn't want to be directly involved with internet censorship. The original quotes come from a Bloomberg article titled Murdoch Says News Corp. Has Hit `Brick Wall' in China, reporting on a media conference in New York on Sept. 16, where Rupert Murdoch and others also made comments about China's rather difficult media market (to put it mildly). Relevant excerpt:
Some media ventures have disappointed their overseas investors. Time Warner Inc., the world's largest media company, withdrew from a $50 million Internet venture between its AOL unit and Lenovo Group Ltd., then known as Legend, in January 2004.
The ``straw that broke the camel's back'' was the government's insistence that it had the right to monitor all traffic on the service, Richard Parsons, chief executive of Time Warner Inc., said at the media forum.
``You're given lists of words that you have to block through your service, like democracy,'' he said. ``We bailed out.''
Time Warner thought about ``what we would look like here in the U.S. if we agreed to a governmentally imposed regime where words like democracy had to be blocked,'' Parsons said. ``We made a judgment that it wasn't a market that we wanted to enter in this way at this time.''
Microsoft Corp., the world's biggest software maker, was criticized in June by Reporters Without Borders for agreeing to block words such as ``democracy'' from its MSN service in China.
``The Chinese are doing everything they can to manage the message,'' Parsons said. ``They are opening up in their own time and at their own speed.''
Companies do have a choice. Investors who care about free speech should reward them for making the right choices.