Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Google and China « Previous | |Next »
January 14, 2010

As we know Google had allowed Chinese censorship on its search engine in order to gain access to the world's largest market. Google’s systems had succumbed to direct attack by China’s cyberwarriors that exposed the two different types of data which had led both to the theft of some of the company’s own intellectual property as well as details of two Gmail accounts.

The key paragraph in Google's statement about China's state sanctioned hacking is this:

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

So it is negotiations and compromise. What will that compromise be given Google's threat to pull out of China? The Chinese government would be likely to block at least partially in retaliation. Will Google then develop ways to circumvent government filtering?

Many countries around the world block or filter Internet content, denying access to information--often about politics, but also relating to sexuality, culture, or religion--that they deem too sensitive for ordinary citizens. The current repressive regime in Iran is an example. In How China polices the internet Kathrin Hille spells out China's approach to Internet censorship and surveillance:

Ever since China linked up to the web in 1994, its rulers have sought to know, control and limit what their citizens read and write online. In the early years, the censorship system they built became known as the “Great Firewall of China”, because it focused on using router technology to block unwanted information from outside at the point where it might enter.But as internet use has grown... so too has the number of censors. And as China’s presence on the web has developed, with a greater focus on user-generated content, so have the censors’ strategies evolved.

China's current internet surveillance system to deal with Web 2.O is modelled on the lines of a “panopticon”. This refers to the 18th-century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who thought up a prison design which would allow monitoring of all prisoners at all times without allowing the prisoners to know whether they were being watched or not. The Chinese version is a participatory panopticon as internet users are involved in anonymously watching each other.

There will be fallout from the Chinese hack of Google's security because Google is the advocate of the view that we have definitively moved into the era where the network – not the PC – is the computer. The idea is that most people can now get all the computing services they need – web browsing, email, instant messaging, word processing, spreadsheets, blogging, telephony, etc – via the net, so they no longer need to have a machine capable of running a bloated, clunky operating system. All we need now is an internet-ready device that can get its operating system from the network "cloud" and then get on with the real work of the day.

This is a world in which people's access to the internet is via tethered devices controlled by a powerful companies that makes money from surveillance. IPods, iPhones, Xboxes, and TiVos represent the first wave of Internet-centered products that can’t be easily modified by anyone except their vendors or selected partners. These “tethered appliances” contradict the idea of the free or open generative internet --the idea of the Internet as a forum of free expression and access to information that supports an open public domain of knowledge.

A lockdown on PCs and a corresponding rise of tethered appliances suggests that what today we take for granted--- a world where mainstream technology can be influenced, even revolutionized, out of left field---will become marginalized. The other side of the open internet is the shadowy ‘‘uncivil’’ dark net of armed social movements, transnational criminal networks, and the multitude of private social networks that exist among migrant and diaspora communities.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:15 AM | | Comments (5)


Western democracies, such as Australia, have decided that the primary solution to all these internet-era problems is to hold internet and mobile companies heavily liable for policing users – rather than finding some other way to fight crime and address other socially undesirable behaviour.

This is based on "intermediary liability": the intermediary service – which serves as a conduit for customers to post videos, photos or blogs, send messages, search for web content, or whatever – is held liable and can potentially be sued, prosecuted or otherwise punished for what its users do on its service.

The obvious target of the Chinese was Google’s databases and archive about about our online behaviour.

Yahoo supports Google. The avenue for the Chinese hacker attacks has been revealed to be Internet Explorer.

yep, Microsoft is in decline under Steve Ballmer because the company's revenue growth fails to match that of rivals.It declines because it offers junk--eg.,Windows Mobile. It has the worst interface of any phone platform.

In Why America and China will clash in the Financial Times Gideon Rachman says that:

The reason that the Google case is so significant is because it suggests that the assumptions on which US policy to China have been based since the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 could be plain wrong. The US has accepted – even welcomed – China’s emergence as a giant economic power because American policymakers convinced themselves that economic opening would lead to political liberalisation in China.

If that assumption changes, American policy towards China could change with it. Welcoming the rise of a giant Asian economy that is also turning into a liberal democracy is one thing. Sponsoring the rise of a Leninist one-party state, that is America’s only plausible geopolitical rival, is a different proposition

It does seem as if Chinese authoritarianism is becoming more repressive, not less and Google’s decision to highlight the dangers of cyberattack from China will play to growing American security fears about China.