Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Great Firewalls of China

It surprises me that, with the next Olympics in Beijing starting to get publicity, that the Great Firewall of China is not being investigated. China still jams foreign broadcasts in Mandarin, especially those from BBC and Radio Free Asia. Likewise, the news on the Internet is never rosy.

As Internet content filtering practices proliferate around the world, the companies that manufacture the technologies employed or implicated in such practices have been subject to increasing criticism. No where is this tension more evident than in the case of foreign direct investment in China, where western corporations have come under fire from human rights activists for their compliance with China's internet censorship and surveillance policies.

A recent Reporters Without Borders bulletin draws attention to the practice of search engine filtering in China, with a focus on Baidu.com and Yisou.com, two popular Chinese search engines. Although initially home-grown, the two search engines have attracted interest from American companies anxious to penetrate China's massive IT market. Google has recently invested in Baidu while Yisou is owned by Google's main search engine rival, Yahoo!. The RSF bulletin admonishes both companies for complying with China's policies regarding self-censorship and, in doing so, acting contrary to the spirit of both US legislation -- in particular the Global Internet Freedom Act -- and to broader principles of human rights.

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