An interview with me, talking about the role of multinational companies in Chinese Internet censorship, followed by a great exchange with Danwei.org's Jeremy Goldkorn, aired on On The Media last Friday. I was traveling and so I've only just listened to it. It's online here:
You can read the transcript here, I won't cut-and-paste the whole thing. Everything I say there, I've written on this blog somewhere before. But it was a good opportunity to sum things up succintly. (Also note: my collgeagues Qian Gang and David Bandurski said brilliant things in a previous OTM show here and here.)
Somebody called "super88" left this comment:
"American companies make the calculation..." Goes beyond that -- the very idea of firewalls, filters, tracking, and most other ways of technologically restricting or monitoring the Internet were peddled and still are from the Free World to the, er, less free (no offense, China!)!
China's governmental wants and needs are absolute market makers for Seimens, MSFT, Google, ATT -- and zillions of niche firms, many in Cali. And also a big thanks to Stanford, CalTech, MIT, the Fulbright Committee and the other institutions hived around China's best and brightest, some of whom are now experts in not expanding but killing free thought and discussion.
We can't blame the companies -- dollars are neither clean or dirty once spent again -- but I point this out to remind us that we cannot either rely on them to "do the right thing," or "do no evil" without making our own voices heard, via our representatives, our letters and/or our dollars.
That is absolutely true. If users act like they don't care very much, companies will tend to assume there's nothing wrong. Not just in China, but anywhere they operate. As I pointed out in the interview, this is a global problem.
Companies are pushed not only by governments, but also by other powerful corporate interests that are trying to impose their interests, unreasonably, on others. We've got both in the United States. Just read how a Judge threw YouTube users to the wolves, deciding that protecting Viacom's intellecual property is more important than users' reasonable expectation of privacy and free speech. Nor can Americans count on our elected representatives to protect us from illegal government snooping unless we yell a lot louder than we have done until now.
We can craft all kinds of global corporate codes of conduct, but unless users get more vocal and educate themselves better about how Internet and telecom services use their personal data and manipulate information at government behest, it will be hard to prevent a global race to the bottom.