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US companies too compliant to Chinese censorship demands

02 October, 2011
By Allison Orr

A new report by think tank SecDev has found that US-based tech firms wanting access to China’s enormous online population bend too easily to China’s rules of censorship and surveillance.

The report, Collusion and Collision: Searching for guidance in Chinese cyberspace, is critical of search engine firms.  Chinese Internet policy maintains strict control over domestic cyberspace, and is justified to maintain social stability and cohesion.  It involves an elaborate system of  mandatory registration of new sites, and enforcement of self-policing.

According to the report, Western corporations cashing in on the burgeoning Chinese Internet population face an ethical dilemma.  Companies such as Yahoo!, Microsoft and Skype, are gatekeepers – the report makes the point that companies have more control in cyberspace than governments – but in acting deferentially to Chinese law they can also become potent tools of online repression.

The report finds that most companies have acceded to Chinese demands leading to situations where they have aided and abetted human rights abuses.  The researchers single out Google for special mention, for withdrawing from mainland China when faced with this ethical dilemma.

The report is critical of voluntary codes to enforce ethical behavior as they see them as ineffective, and call for a practical and actionable approach.

Previously published in undefined.

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