Thanks to all who've been linking to and commenting on the Columbia Journalism Review's "watercooler" interview with me, about why I quit CNN and what I'm doing now with Global Voices and so forth. I've been getting a lot of email about it (all positive so far).
Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe quoted me in a story today titled "Tech Firms Help Tyrants Keep their Grip." He described my little experiment with censorship on the Chinese version of MSN Spaces, then quoted me on the wider implications of corporate collaboration with censorship and filtering:
'It's not my place to make their laws," Scoble writes on his blog. ''It certainly is not my right to force their hand with business power. Any more than it's their place to make American laws."
Rubbish, MacKinnon replies.
''By not agreeing to comply with filtering requirements, you're not forcing the Chinese to do anything," she said. ''You're just not playing along with their game."
Indeed, MacKinnon said that Microsoft and other Internet companies should flatly refuse to comply with the Chinese government's filtering standards, and not only out of a love of free speech.
''We're getting into a national security issue," she fretted. MacKinnon fears that our support of Chinese censorship is storing up trouble for the United States in years to come, in the same way that our tolerance of Saudi fanaticism is now paying such ugly dividends.
Consider the case of Taiwan. Most Chinese support their country's bellicose attitude toward their ''rebellious province." But MacKinnon thinks this is largely because the Chinese get so little accurate information about Taiwan, through the Internet or any other media. ''If you did have a free exchange of opinion," she said, ''maybe more people on the mainland might say, you know, let's let those Taiwanese do what they want."
Instead, Taiwan is demonized, and the masses cheer their leaders' belligerent posturing. All in all, it's a good way to start a war. And US Internet companies would share some of the blame, in MacKinnon's view, for helping Beijing keep its citizens in the dark.
''This comes down as their larger responsibility as Americans," MacKinnon said.