Editorial: Internet censorship should not be tolerated
Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 00:01
A world in which countries actively work to keep citizens' rights to information suppressed may seem something straight out of George Orwell's "1984," but this is a growing reality in areas where governments work to stop the international exchange of information through the internet. This is often made possible through search providers, the most famous of which is surely Google.
Until recently, Google operated in China but was limited by self-censorship in accordance with Chinese laws concerning controversial topics such as Tiananmen Square and the Dalai Lama. But mid-December malware-based attacks on Google and other internet companies intended to allegedly access the e-mail accounts of human rights activists working on behalf of the Chinese people have led the Google corporation to reconsider operating in China under the name of Google.cn, though Google.com will still be made available.
Congratulations on taking this stand against censorship, Google. But we must ask, what has taken you so long? Yes, the attack was a precipitous event, but in all seriousness, the years of self-censorship seem strange coming from a company devoted to the unimpeded sharing of information through Web searches and social networking.
In 2006, when Google.cn was launched, it was under the conditions that information would be screened first by Google, and then by the Chinese government. We should ask if this foray into an oppressive market was worth potentially legitimsizing government censorship in an international arena.
This issue has brought to light something that has existed since the launch of the Chinese-language Google.cn – that global leaders have not fully addressed what power any one nation may execute over the internet. Google's mission to legally provide the Chinese people with greater access to social information is understandable, and indeed laudable. But by accepting the censorship rules, the company left itself vulnerable to escalating censorship, which could strongly influence how the internet functions internationally. This issue with censorship must be addressed sooner rather than later to ensure free movement of histories, ideas and information in a global community so the free world can continue to move forward into 2010, instead of condemning itself to the realities of "1984."