Freedom of Speech Online


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A section about freedom of speech in Asia, with a focus on the recent conflict between China and Google.

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Freedom of Speech Online

  1. 1. Perspectives 2.11.10:Layout 1 2/16/10 5:16 PM Page 1 6 PERSPECTIVES Who will take Google’s share in the Chinese market? G February 11, 2010 Mount Holyoke News BY CHU WANG ’12 STAFF WRITER Google’s Jan. 12 declaration that it critical for technology companies like might cease operations in China and pos- Google. sibly shut down has stirred nu- On its official blog Google blamed merous debates about whether Google censorship restrictions for a potential should place business profits ahead of withdrawal. “We have decided we are no democratic ideology when facing censor- longer willing to continue censoring our ship. It raises a question that affects results on,” wrote David other cyber companies: who is going to Drummond, Google’s corporate develop- take charge of Google’s 30-percent mar- ment and chief legal officer. But the com- ket share if the search giant pulls out of pany has fought bitterly for its China? thirty-percent market share for years, Google’s threat to pull out of the dealing with pressures from both the Chi- world’s biggest Internet market of 330 nese government and other domestic million users, according to research cyber companies. Google's market in group Analysis International, has been China also expanded with newer techno- questioned globally. Although the num- logical developments, including the An- ber of users and market share in China is droid operating system on 3G mobile high, the profits made account only for phones. three percent of Google’s total annual Now Baidu, China’s domestic Inter- revenue. That is why Google’s headquar- net search engine, seems to be the ters insist the company has nothing to biggest competitor to Google. Sogou and lose from pulling out of the market and Soso are also potential candidates for a reports that its decision was made solely piece in the search engine market. Major based on Chinese censorship issues. search engines are, no doubt, waiting for “If Google is only going to lose about Google’s final decision and have already two percent of its total revenue then it be- developed complex plans about manage- comes a matter of propaganda,” said his- ment of China’s search engine market tory professor Jonathan Lipman about after a potential Google withdrawal. the search engine's recent announce- Microsoft and Yahoo, the other two ment. “Is it better for Google to store leaders of the Global Network Initiative virtue points and make good propaganda (GNI), also won’t align with Google in a outside of China by pulling out and losing potential withdrawal. Although partner- that two percent, or is that two percent ing with Google in the GNI, Yahoo and important enough to have a negative Microsoft both plan to continue operating propaganda impact in U.S. and in Europe in China. where people will say, ‘Oh you cowards! The implications of Google’s move for You are buckling under to the totalitarian other technology firms in China are still to be seen. But for Google, as Professor Governments censor online content in Asia power in China for your own benefits?’” Lipman emphasized the fact that both Lipman observed, the question that re- business profits and “virtue points” are mains is how to “balance public interest and public image with profits.” BY EMILY CHOW ’12 government also banned Facebook in late 2009. The media in its accusations that the government was ignoring the STAFF WRITER in Vietnam is state-controlled with the government imple- interests of Malaysia’s indigenous people. Despite pres- menting regulations that prohibit citizens from blogging sure from the government and police investigators, What most of us will consider a personal right to about highly sensitive issues and political discussions, ac- Malaysiakini’s editor refused to breach journalism ethics gather and share information or express viewpoints on cording to an MSNBC report online in late 2008. The Viet- by revealing the identity of the letter writer, who had the World Wide Web is actually a privilege for citizens in namese government encourages netizens to blog about wished to remain anonymous. As a result, the police several countries across Asia including Singapore, Viet- personal issues instead, and expects Internet companies seized 15 of Malaysiakini’s central processing units and nam, China and Malaysia. The governments of these coun- to filter blogs and remove posts that the government four of its servers. tries impose limits and restrictions on what their citizens deems harmful. Aside from that, Internet companies Down south, in neighboring Singapore, the govern- are allowed to do online, on the basis that Web sites, blogs which provide blogging platforms to users are required to ment sentenced two people to jail in 2005 and arrested or forum comments could potentially encourage social provide bloggers’ information to the government upon re- three youths earlier this month for alleged acts of sedition. disharmony amongst the citizens, and in some cases count quest and are to report to the government every six Channel News Asia reported in October 2005 that the two as sedition against the government. defendants were charged under the Sedi- In the summer of 2008, the Chinese govern- tion Act for posting racist remarks on- ment banned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. line. One was sentenced to a month in jail The bans took place following the riots that oc- while the other served a day in jail and a curred in Xinjiang, drawing speculations that maximum fine of SGD $5,000 (USD $3515). the Chinese government intended to restrict Following more recent develop- the flow of information online regarding these ments, three Singaporean youths were politically sensitive issues. China’s government arrested by the police on February 3 for also blocked all Google services, including posting supposedly racist remarks on Gmail, Google Apps and Google Talk, two Facebook. While they have since been re- weeks before the Facebook ban transpired. In- leased on bail, investigations are still on- terestingly, China’s local Web services such as going. Although the youths are only social networking site and between the ages of 17 and 18, they may, a video sharing Web site similar to be fined or jailed for up to three years YouTube, remained available for use. “I’d say under the Singaporean law. that these sites are very clear on the Chinese The Singaporean government moni- government’s policy (on internet censorship), tors their “netizens” through the Media thus they prevent (certain kinds of) information Development Authority (MDA). The from being posted,” said Lingyue Yang ’12 MDA, a board under the Singaporean about Renren and Youku. Ministry of Information, Communication Search results from foreign web services and the Arts, functions as a censor of the have also been tweaked by the Chinese govern- nation’s media, including Web sites. Sin- ment, and Yang elaborates that until the gov- gaporeans do not have access to a list of ernment is able to block specifically unwanted approximately 100 MDA banned web- information, a potentially controversial Web sites, many of which are predominantly site will simply not be accessible to Internet months. pornographic sites. However, one or two Web sites on the users. Blogs, posts and comments are automatically fil- In this tradition of restricting freedom of Internet blacklist are regarded as sites that promote religious ex- tered as the Chinese government has developed methods speech, the Malaysian government attempted to shut tremism. of blocking words and phrases such as “Mao” and “Tibet down an independent local online news portal called It is a complex dynamic between governments and on- Independence”. “The system can detect the words that Malaysiakini in January 2003. The government was dis- line freedom of speech. “I think the government fears the you use in your blog or comment,” said Yang. “If it detects satisfied with an anonymous letter published by Malaysi- collapse of the communist party,” said Yang about the pro- such words, then you will not be able to post your com- akini that accused the government of racial lific internet censorship in China.” They don’t want their ment unless you make (the necessary) changes.” discrimination. Based on reports from the online news own people to see ‘the other side’ of the government,” she British newspaper The Independent speculated that portal, politician Azimi Daim called the letter “malicious” added. Vietnam could be taking a leaf out of China’s book as its
  2. 2. Perspectives 2.11.10:Layout 1 2/16/10 5:16 PM Page 2 7 A LL C HINA PERSPECTIVES As stores EYES ON G February 11, 2010 Mount Holyoke News expand abroad, Global discontent rises as China ideologies clash maintains Internet restrictions “A nation that is willing to deprive its million small retail stores make up a gigantic retail market. Several factors, ” including domestic laws citizens of information and modern and policies, complicated BY JING GAO ’13 Wal-Mart’s entry into technology cannot stand. STAFF WRITER India. Other foreign corpo- rations, on the other hand, he image of for- namic pertains to Car- acutely tailored their T eign companies penetrating do- mestic markets has been a refour, a world-renown re- tail seller from France. When rumors went products to domestic con- sumers’ preferences. When Google and Baidu, two major search engines, BY LAUREN THEURER ’12 Search-engine-turned-tech-giant Google has recently bit romanticized. A gen- around before the sum- STAFF WRITER changed its policy on censorship of search results in China, eral assumption is that mer of the 2008 Beijing got into a battle for domi- nation of China’s Internet following a December infrastructure attack on Chinese foreign chain stores can Olympics Games that a human rights activists. The incident, as Google outlined in a blog posted on Jan. 12, af- easily make huge profits major Carrefour share- market, Baidu, though hardly a domestic corpo- fected over 20 companies and was primarily focused on gaining access to the Gmail ac- thanks to low-cost labor holder, LMVH, had do- counts of several Chinese activists. The company announced that it will no longer censor and strong support from nated large sums of ration itself, pretended to be one and spread mes- search results on its Web site, and is prepared to pull out of the country if China the companies’ headquar- money to the Dalai Lama, is not willing to accept such a decision. ters. But is this really so? Carrefour saw a number sages supporting domes- tic industry in an attempt China has a long history of Internet censorship. It is in the middle of a nationwide One thing which for- of large-scale boycotts in pornography crackdown, and its massive firewall, which blocks among other things im- eign companies can never its Chinese market. In to win over consumers. Though there are cer- ages of the Tianamen Square massacre, has been nicknamed the Great Firewall of China. shake off is their identity. some instances people Until recently, Google went along with this policy—after all, business is business, despite Foreign chain stores—no demonstrated inside the tainly many other factors leading to Google’s failure the irony that Google’s slogan reads “Don’t be evil.” However, this (long overdue, in the matter what goods they stores. While foreign eyes of many) decision to stop playing along with Chinese censorship could have game- have on their shelves, chain stores may be “lo- in China, there is no deny- ing that “domestic indus- changing effects on both the company’s future and the future of global censorship. where their employees calized” to a large extent, Technically, Google lacks any power to force or even coerce China to change its policy. come from or what kind of they will never get rid of try” has proven to be a magical phrase under var- There is little chance that China is going to back down. After all, ne step in that direction services they provide— what their companies’ would lead to calls for even more policy changes, and, as was witnessed in the former So- have always been viewed names and headquarters’ ious situations. Chain stores need to viet Union, that is a slippery slope to the downfall of a government. However, Google’s as representative of their locations suggest. announcement has served to remind the global community that China is still enforcing its original nations. Thus, Cultural assimilation cope with different con- sumer habits and cultural backwards policy, strongly criticized by many world governments. This may also pressure they, may become espe- plays a fundamental role China to look into the identities of those who carried it out. cially vulnerable under in the success of chain differences when pene- trating foreign markets. It is unlikely that anything solid will come out of this announcement. Google will likely certain unexpected and stores abroad. Even the withdraw from China, unless the contry makes some concessions—which, frankly, is un- unpleasant situations, world's largest retailer, Though most of them have been doing a great job, it is likely. China will most likely not initiate any steps toward relaxation of its censorship stan- sometimes even becoming Wal-Mart met significant dards. However, now that the global community has refocused its attention on the scapegoats. resistance when it tried to debatable whether the pic- country’s rampant censorship, things might start moving in the right direction. In the C U LT U R E : ture is as clear and rosy as REMIXING One recent case that develop its market in long run, a nation that is willing to deprive its citizens of information and modern technol- demonstrates this dy- India, where about 150 what is generally as- sumed. ogy cannot stand. WHERE POPULAR MEETS TRADITIONAL BY MARION MESSMER ’13 phere with sleek interior design. STAFF WRITER Other chains adopt a different approach. They do not rely only on the success of a shared What do you have in common with a college culture, but instead offer products tailored to girl in France or China? Probably more than you the culture they want to enter. McDonalds, a think. Chances are that you get your clothes global fast food business, serves its burgers in from the same stores, meet your friends at the different ways, depending on which country you same restaurants, watch the same movies, listen are in. In Switzerland, the “Big Tasty” is cur- to the same music, and read the same maga- rently the burger of the month; in Russia, the zines. restaurants offer the “Russian Sunday,” which In an increasingly globalized economy, the takes on traditional Russian recipes; and in infiltration of different market sectors into di- France, restaurants lure new costumers in by verse societies is undeniable. The turn of the 21st offering downsized items like the p'tit wrap, or century heralds an array of market chains crop- also known as the “little wrap.” ping up in different geographic locations, while While Starbucks offers the same drinks and meeting consumers’ needs with a sense of famil- snacks all over the world, often not adapting its iarity. Connectivity and simultaneous delivery menu to the host country’s language, McDon- of similar services are dispersed among different ald’s coffeeshop branch McCafé offers a mix of societies. The clothing retailer H&M, for in- treats tailored to the respective country’s her- stance, is as popular in Europe as it is in North itage. McCafé sells Tartelettes and croissants in America; Starbucks tastes the same in Seattle as France and stuffed pastry and pies in Russia. it does in Beijing; and Katy Perry sells music to Cultural remixes go beyond chain restau- millions in Turin, Tokyo and Toronto. rants to penetrate different areas of popular cul- Though working towards a global customer ture. A prominent example from Japan is base, not all market chains follow the same di- baseball. Brought to the Japanese islands by rection. American soldiers after the Second World War, One approach is an experiment with cultural baseball has evolved into a new national sport. coexistence.Vapiano, for example, is a shared Now the Japanese are about as obsessed with pop culture that has helped hip and more up- baseball as Americans are. Most high schools in scale chains, such as Starbucks become popular Japan have popular baseball teams and old worldwide. This German restaurant chain offers American star players retire in Japan where delightful Italian cuisine at fast-food prices in 18 they are celebrated as heroes. China is similarly countries, including the United Arab Emirates, obsessed with basketball although their own Korea, and the U.S. Equally appreciated in all league is not yet very strong. countries, Vapiano achieved success that can be Why are some cultural practices from other attributed to its fusion of modern chic and Italian countries assimilated into a culture and become cuisine. Every restaurant follows a similar thus a part of the whole? Why are others simply setup—a coffeeshop area with an Italian accepted and coexist next to older traditions? espresso bar, furnished with comfortable stylish And why do some fail completely? The answer chairs, and a restaurant area with communal tables and food, where guests observe the to this question is still to be found, but it proves that culture is a living, breathing and ver- creation of their dishes. It is a chain that connects good food and cosmopolitan atmos- satile concept.