Entry for January 08, 2006

The above iconic photograph is by Charlie Cole. A dramatic account of how the photograph was captured can be found at the October 7, 2005 BBC article, “Picture power: Tiananmen stand-off” Cole won the 1989 photo of the year contest from World Press Photo, which maintains a gallery of all 50 years of the competition. This photo, with the Microsoft logo superimposed on each tank, has resurfaced to criticize the company for taking down the site of Chinese journalist and blogger Zhao Jing on December 30. Under the nom de plume Michael Anti, he wrote about the firing of an editor of the Beijing News, which in turn sparked a strike by some 100 journalists at the paper.

Yesterday, the Roanoke Times finally had a small blurb. Microsoft bans terms terms like “democracy” and “human rights” on its websites in China. Google won’t search for terms like “Taiwan” or “Dalai Lama”.

Anti will be posting in English again at Chinathinkbase.com, according to RConversation’s January 3 post. Rebecca MacKinnon, a former CNN reporter and the blog’s owner has a good discussion of the matter. When I checked today, however, the last post was November 30. MacKinnon raises this point:

If these American technology companies have so few moral qualms about giving in to Chinese government demands to hand over Chinese user data or censor Chinese people’s content, can we be sure they won’t do the same thing in response to potentially illegal demands by an over-zealous government agency in our own country? Can we trust that they’re not already doing so?

Microsoft’s own in-house blogger, Robert Scoble‘s January 3 post said he was “depressed” by the news and offered Anti the opportunity to blog via his site.

Guys over at MSN: Sorry, I don’t agree with your being used as a state-run thug,” he said. “It’s one thing to pull a list of words out of a blog using an algorithm. It’s another thing to become an agent of a government and censor an entire blogger’s work

On his January 4 blog, Imagethief: Confessions of an American Spin Doctor in Beijing weighed in:

But the question that situations –and excuses– like this raise for American tech-media companies is this: where is your ethical horizon? Every country has its own laws and regulations. Some are more egregious than others. Some are indefensible. When do a company’s values supercede its desire to make money and generate shareholder return? Does that point exist in the absence of public scrutiny?

You can read an interview with Anti at September 4, 2005 entry of EastSouthWestNorth. There is also a picture and interview at the Washington Post

When the former anti-communists touted favored nation trade status for China, they argued that it would be a force to democratize the country. It seems that the country is having an opposite effect on our companies, who kowtow to the government.

There’s a Permaculture meeting over at Rick Williams, so I’ll close now.

Update: L A. Times Editorial of January 10, “Freedom to Blog”

WaPo article of February 21,2006, “Bloggers Who Pursue Change Confront Fear And Mistrust,” Philip P. Pan, page A1 (includes photo and exerpt from banned blog.)

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