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Censorship Your Rights Online

Yahoo Agrees to Censor Chinese Portal 352 352

Bonker writes: "This article at Salon indicates that Yahoo, as part of a larger pledge to 'purge the Web of content that China's communist government deems subversive', has agreed to censor 'pernicious information that may jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability' from its Chinese portal. Yahoo is one of about 300 other ISPs and websites who have signed the 'Public Pledge on Self-discipline for China Internet Industry'."
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Yahoo Agrees to Censor Chinese Portal

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  • by ZeroLogic (11697) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:33PM (#3888544)
    They are a business, if they want to make money in China, then they need to play by China's rules.
  • Hmmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by YahoKa (577942) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:35PM (#3888555)
    What do you think people in the 60's would have done if a corporation supported the "commie bastards?"
  • by KingKire64 (321470) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:36PM (#3888571) Homepage Journal
    Its times like this that alot of the anti US rants just seem... trival. Freedom of speech is by far the most important freedom and America(for the most part) does a damn good job.
  • by neocon (580579) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:37PM (#3888582) Homepage Journal
    And if they wanted to do business in South Africa twenty years ago, they would have had to purge sites claiming blacks should have the same rights as whites, and if they wanted to do business in Nazi Germany, they would have to purge all articles written by Jews.

    Would you be okay with that, too? Or would you agree with me that there are some steps a business should not be willing to take?

    And if they do agree to this, how does this affect their argument here in the US that they are not liable for customer content because they can't control it?

  • *sigh* (Score:2, Insightful)

    by caveat (26803) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:37PM (#3888585)
    before y'all atart bitching about how yahoo is now depriving people of the right to free information, remember they're a for-profit business, out to make a buck...and in spite of all the ethical issues, china has a potential market of a BILLION consumers. hell, if i were in their shoes, i'd do the Morally Wrong Thing, since it would make me a Heaping Shitload Of Money. plus now they won't get sued by the chinese like the french are doing, for distributing content that's against said country's laws. anyway, in all honesty, i'd rather see companies doing this than underreporting $4bn of profits.
  • by neocon (580579) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:39PM (#3888609) Homepage Journal
    Where do you get this idea? Should Americans in the 1940's have `just accepted' Nazi Germany because `that's the way it is'? Really?
  • by Bonker (243350) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:40PM (#3888614)
    Scarily enough, it goes on in the U.S. too. Take a good, long hard look at Walmart Corp. They are one of the nation's largest redistributors of magazines and other periodicals... so large, in fact, that if Walmart refuses to carry a magazine for a month, it can break a publication financially.

    Combine that with the fact that Walmart has always upheld a rather fraudulent reputation that it is interested in the concerns of senior citezens, religious organizations, and 'family-oriented' concerns, and you end up with something pretty scary. Walmart has been known to refuse to sell books, games, CD's and magazines that had any kind of content deemed innapropriate. Quite a few of the magazines in the U.S. have to run their covers and editorial content past Walmart for approval before they can go to press.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:41PM (#3888634)
    or oil to the Japanese during the late 1930's when they were raping Europe and Manchuria.

    They'd sell their mother for a buck.

  • by slutdot (207042) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:42PM (#3888644)
    As unpopular as this sounds, business and ethics (as we've seen) don't mix. If Yahoo wants to do business in China, they'll abide by China's laws. It sucks but it's true. Yahoo has every right to not do business in China if it chooses.
  • by gdyas (240438) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:44PM (#3888669) Homepage

    When companies like Yahoo! look across the Pacific at a large group of people fed bullshit & held under the thumb of an oppressive dictatorship and all they can think of is how they can buddy up to the gov't in order to get a crack at these "new consumers", I'd say that we have larger corporate ethics problems than Enron, kids.

    Yahoo! Where your civil liberties are what your government tells us they are.

  • Nothing New (Score:2, Insightful)

    by G0SP0DAR (552303) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:46PM (#3888692)
    This happened to Yahoo! in France with auctions of Third Reich memorabilia, and Yahoo! severely censored itself to a far greater extent to prevent further controversy in France. How could it come as a surprise that the ChiCom's would follow suit?
  • So much... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:46PM (#3888694)
    ...for the internet changing the world. Oh well, once it beacme a tool of capitalism this was bound to happen.

    So, what's the next big thing, now that the net has basically fizzeled?
  • by IndependentVik (582582) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:52PM (#3888757)
    Have we really instilled respect for freedom when a US corporation is so ready and willing to deprive the Chinese populace of their inalienable rights?

    Freedom disappears in baby steps. When we accept that other folks don't deserve freedom, it's not a far leap to think that our neighbors, and then ourselves, don't deserve it either.
  • by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:54PM (#3888778) Homepage Journal
    While this situation sucks, it still doesn't approach the evil of government censorship. If Walmart drives your magazine out of business, you can still put your ideas out in other ways. If the government decides your ideas are illegal, then you have no recourse.

    That being said, it sounds like this particular example looks (or is being made to look) more like self- than imposed censorship. I would say this move by China is similar to the coerced self-regulation of movies and comics in the US. The threat of legally codified censorship was used to pressure those industries into the standardized rating system and the "comics code" respectively. This is a gray area between purely capitalist "censorship" like the Walmart case and "say that and I will shoot you" style direct legal censorship.

    If anything, I'd count this as a step up for Chinese government. They tend to go directly to the jackboots-and-guns stage rather than finessing issues like this, so using "voluntary" compliance here may be a good sign that things are beginning to loosen up over there.
  • The new game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jaymzter (452402) on Monday July 15, 2002 @04:55PM (#3888792) Homepage
    As a child of the cold war I love it when I get reminded of the good ol' days. China learned what the USSR never did. You can't make headway declaring "We will bury you!" from the podium of the UN. China knows, or believes, that the way to control America is through the pursestrings. As long as China continues to hold cash in front of American companies, there will always be a vocal lobby in Washington that will scream down any mention of the word ChiComm, and any punishment for China on its human rights record.
    America doesn't stand up for its ideals anymore unless there is no other recourse. It's sick and twisted, but business as usual.
    This article only reminds us that our government..err, companies are doing things that we wish they wouldn't. We shouldn't be outraged, we should be mobilized.
  • by God_Retired (44721) on Monday July 15, 2002 @05:04PM (#3888891)
    When WalMart goes into a little town in the middle of a bunch of little towns and so dominates the market that all the little independent distributers of various wares get put out of business, it hurts the people living in those areas in their freedom of choice.

    It's not all bad, and I realize that most people who live/shop around Walmarts are happy with them. But when the choice is driving an hour plus for an alternate outlet, for a teen, it is practically equivalent to gov't censorship. I'm sorry, but kids need to have an outlet. Parents always seem to disprove of their kids music. It's practically a right of kids. And Walmart takes it away.

    It's also a shame that so many people are too goddamn lazy to filter the world themselves and look to big corporations or big gov't (Ashcroft, et.al.) to do the job.
  • by why-is-it (318134) on Monday July 15, 2002 @05:28PM (#3889161) Homepage Journal
    So, whats the problem with that?

    I would have thought it reasonable obvious! Policing the content before they agree to sell it potentially gives WalMart an un-acceptable degree of control over what information is available, and how it is presented. Who elected WalMart to the position of official censor? What gives WalMart the right make those decisions?

    What if the Waltons decide that they really don't like abortion, and pressure magazines to adjust their content accordingly. Would that be smart business sense? I suspect that if it were microsoft pressuring MSNBC to present the Beast in a more favourable light, the howls of outrage would be deafening.
  • by gdyas (240438) on Monday July 15, 2002 @05:35PM (#3889237) Homepage

    This is exactly my point. Yahoo should accept being banned from China's network instead of sanitizing its content as the Chinese government dictates. Yahoo should, indeed to keep its integrity must, pull its operation out of China if this is what's demanded of them. Participation in such an agreement inevitably puts the blood of Chinese political prisoners on the hands of Yahoo's board, and it's repellent.

    There's a word for what you propose: appeasement. It's the acceptance of a dictate while maintaining the hope that they won't ask any more of you, that they'll be satisfied and you'll somehow be able to work under the new system. It failed to work in the late 30's, and it won't work in this analogous situation. No option? There's always an option, and the proper one here is to not collaborate with tyranny.

    You're right though about our own government; it's composed of politicians who'd rather appease a large economic market than oppose oppression where it plainly exists, and I'm sure Yahoo takes some of its cues from them. None of that makes their behavior acceptable though.

  • by supernova87a (532540) <kepler1&hotmail,com> on Monday July 15, 2002 @05:37PM (#3889248)
    Why are people so quick to criticize China and so quick to forget America's abuses of "human rights" and "democracy"? This is a country trying to take care of 1 billion people. 1 billion people, can you imagine us doing that? We have 20 guys who decided to crash some planes, and the administration has already curtailed civil rights significantly.

    Despite what you may think, the government of the United States is not open to all opinions, and it is hardly a place where rational people are in control. Take a look at this link [slique.net] to see what the requirements are for people entering the US. They're not exactly being welcomed in a freedom-of-speech, tolerating sort of way, now are they?

    People seem to love picking on China because it's got the label "Communist" in it's name. I never ceased to be surprised at how much stupidity the word "communism" evokes among supposedly educated, rational people. How about all those countries who are our friends, yet commit far worse human rights abuses? Good for China, that it learned the lesson, "if you make products that people want, they could give a crap about human rights".

    If you want to criticize others, I suggest that you first do some cleaning of your own house.
  • by bnenning (58349) on Monday July 15, 2002 @06:06PM (#3889526)
    No nation is perfect, so spare me the "cast the first stone" routine.

    This is a country trying to take care of 1 billion people.

    Relevance? Are you saying that nations above a certain size can survive only by denying civil rights to their citizens?

    We have 20 guys who decided to crash some planes, and the administration has already curtailed civil rights significantly.

    Yes, and that's unfortunate. Note that there is quite a bit of opposition to these policies, and opponents are *not* arrested or shot. The Patriot Act is not a good thing, but to compare it to the actions of the Chinese government is ludicrous.

    They're not exactly being welcomed in a freedom-of-speech, tolerating sort of way, now are they?

    So the US doesn't grant citizenship to people who want to violently overthrow the government. Help, help, I'm being oppressed. And this is supposed to be some sort of moral equivalent to Tiannamen Square?

    People seem to love picking on China because it's got the label "Communist" in it's name.

    Actually, I "pick on" the Chinese government (not the citizens) because it's run by tyrants and murderers. Communism has nothing to do with it, aside from the fact that there's a very high correlation between communist governments and tyranny.

  • by gdyas (240438) on Monday July 15, 2002 @06:37PM (#3889826) Homepage

    What high-grade crap that is.

    China's "taking care of" 1 billion people? Bullshit. Those 1 billion take care of themselves while the gov't drills them in what to think, what to do for a living, and how many children to have. Curtailed civil rights? Sure, the latest gov't excesses are wrong, but try disappearing into a jail for 1 or more decades where nobody can find you because someone overhead you saying the local mayor was a jerk. It's not an uncommon experience in that neck of the woods.

    The contention that the US government bears any resemblance to that of China is one that could only be made by a knee-jerk hippie asshole who's never known what it is to really be oppressed, to be publicly flogged for saying what you think, for having a family member rot in jail without a trial for unknown charges, to immolate yourself because it feels so hopeless, or to have to practice your religion in a dark basement with lookouts posted. Your mere mention of the two systems in the same sentence make my blood boil - how could you hold the rights maintained for you by this gov't in such low esteem? I have no idea, but the excressence you posted is exactly the sort of material you'd be imprisoned for if my gov't was as you imply it is. Your sad doctrine of moral equivalence makes me ill.

    Nobody's saying the US gov't is perfect, but it sure as hell isn't China.

  • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@gmai l . com> on Monday July 15, 2002 @08:45PM (#3890856)
    Policing the content before they agree to sell it potentially gives WalMart an un-acceptable degree of control over what information is available, and how it is presented.
    Only to WalMart customers. Not to everyone else. Their policy is clear, ungarbaled, and forthright: we censor that which we don't like.

    Who elected WalMart to the position of official censor?
    Everyone who shops their, of course.

    What gives WalMart the right make those decisions?
    Everyone who shop their, of course.


    What if the Waltons decide that they really don't like abortion, and pressure magazines to adjust their content accordingly.
    Okay. Probably, considering the crowd and demographics that WalMart sells to. Whats the big problem?

    I suspect that if it were microsoft pressuring MSNBC to present the Beast in a more favourable light, the howls of outrage would be deafening.
    Not from me, since MSNBC is just one network in a vast sea of cable news outlets and web news outlet. If MS creates the "MS Propaganda Network" which broadcasts MS propaganda 24-7, should I care? Nope. Because I won't watch it.


    Its called freedom. We have it here in the US. If you don't like WalMart's choices and decisions regarding content, then please, PLEASE take your business elsewhere. Is that so hard for you to understand?

There is no opinion so absurd that some philosopher will not express it. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares"

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