Thursday, February 16, 2006

Doesn't It Seem Strange?

The U.S. Congress is holding hearings on Google, Yahoo, and MSN aiding the Chinese government in the suppression of human rights.

But on January 25, 2006, an article in the New York Times reported that Google is refusing to execute a subpoena by the U.S. government to surveil the Internet searches of U.S. citizens.

The justification given, by both U.S. and China governments, is that they are trying to find information on illegal activities, including terrorism and pornography, to ensure the stability and security of its citizens. What are the differences?

In the U.S., terrorism is defined mostly as those related to al Qaeda, which attacked the United States by hijacking airplanes.

In China, terrorism is defined mostly as those related to Falungong, which is a cult that tricks its followers into giving up their money, any sort of health care, and even into self-immolation.

Both governments want to protect the safety and security of their citizens. They do it by filtering web sites and search results. That is right, the U.S. government also blocks web sites if it deems those sites to violate the laws of the U.S. government, including not only terrorists but intellectual property scofflaws.

Why should "free speech" be able to trump the human rights to safety and security? The publication of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad has caused several people to die, while others have been injured. Perhaps the publishers did not know this would be the result. Hence they are not technically liable for the results. But it is clear that publication is not necessarily a right guaranteed under "free speech". In fact, the New York Times did not publish the cartoons. Perhaps Congress will convene a hearing to investigate why the Times censored its reporting? Unlikely.

There is something more going on in the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, lead by Christopher Smith. I implore Congress to stop these hearings. Instead, criticize the very fact of surveillance and filtering, and investigate the U.S. Justice Department and the myriad local police forces that have used the Internet to put people in jail. There are more than a few.

Why should Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft be held at fault for complying with the same exact laws that exist in both China and the U.S. -- the right for society to be free from intimidation, violence, and attack?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haha, I was searching "purchasing power parity" on google while one of the search results link me to your blog. I am a Chinese student currenlty pursuing a law degree in the States. Your articles are very interesting. Back to 1930s, you would be another Edgar Snow. I read New York Times everyday here, things are not that bad. Not every artilce depicts China negatively. As far as I can recall, they did post some positive news about China in the past couple of months. Just to name a few of these articles, Geely, while attending the Detroit auto show, announced that it would sell cars in the US in 2008; Yin Mingshan, president of Chongqing Lifan, said they would buy a Benz engine plant in Brazil and move all the equipments to China. There was at least one artilcle reporting that the sacked editor of the China Youth Daily petitioned to the deciplinary committee of CCP to have his case reviewed, and several former senior CCP members publically disclosed their letter addressed to the premier and president of China regarding the China Youth Daily event. The author of this article commented that these events show Chinese people have far more freedom than they had before, since it would be impossible to imagine people dare to challenge the authority of the govenment in the past.