Sunday, February 12, 2006

Internet censorship

Microsoft recently pulled the plug on Zhao Jing, a Chinese blogger, who was using an MSN Spaces online blog service to voice his opinion on a variety of topics. Such actions and many others by U.S. companies reflects their desire for profit, instead of supporting and promoting the basic human right of free speech.

The Internet was a place where information flowed freely and unabashedly. There was a time when the only thing that could restrict you was the lack of a user name and password. The Internet had little to hide and containment or control wasn’t something that most people thought about, in fact, the-more-information-the-better-it-is mentality dominated and this generally holds true today in most parts of the world. The idea that controlling the Net is virtually impossible however is being put to the test by the Chinese government. Not only are they trying to do just that, but they’re making companies adhere to free speech censorship.

Recently it was revealed that AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! complied with Justice Department requirement to turn over search data. Google has made a very high profile statement that it will not.

There’s a bigger picture and a bigger struggle here. The government wants unfettered access to desired information about individuals’ behavior online and off and the NSA wiretapping and spying is reflective of that intent. As the NY Times piece points out:

Whatever the courts ultimately decide on the pornography law at issue, however, Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the Google case pointed to a larger struggle for the identity of the Internet.

“Search engines are at the center of that battle, both here and in other countries,” said Professor Wu. “By asserting its power over search engines, using threats of force, the government can directly affect what the Internet experience is. For while Google is fighting the subpoena, it’s clear that if they lose, they will comply.”

These actions will cause a greater state-controlled censorship on the internet, reduce people's ability to use the internet to communicate freely, and leave expansion of the internet in the hands of the people least capable of doing the job.

If you agree with this, here is a good web site with a tutorial on "how to bypass Internet Censorship"