living and learning

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

She'll be coming 'round the mountains

A couple of months ago Google withdrew their services in China due to a 'highly sophisticated and targeted attack' on their corporate infrastructure. It was a shocking and deeply disturbing move:
We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech. In this age and era we take it for granted as a basic human right, yet in some parts of the world it is still a privilege. A glimpse at internet censorship in China:

What does China censor online

More at Wikipedia.

Google complied with the rules and censored their search results for four years before finally giving in. Their solution? Move to Hong Kong, where internet censorship is not enforced due to it being self-administered territory. Yes you heard right, Google have recently decided to ditch mainland China for a tiny crowded island ruled by China anyway.

Google 2007 screenshot from Internet Archive.

As long as the 'Great Firewall of China' continues to exist, mainland users will not actually be able to open censored search results. But at least they can now see them! A small step towards the better, I'd say.

This reminds me of the first few stats practicals we did for 231, the ones where we compared Human Development Index scores with political freedom scores (among other things) for 94 countries worldwide. The stats showed that the more developed the country, the greater its level of political freedom, with 5 notable exceptions - 3 Arab nations plus 2 countries with communist ties. These countries have significantly lower levels of political freedom than is expected of their development levels. Not surprisingly, China was one of them.


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