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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Don't Look for Long John Bawdry Behind the Great Firewall of China 

Warning: this post contains words that some consider offensive - and "Christian" is only one of them.

From china.org.cn (found on a query of the word "freedom" - go figure):

New Regulations to Ensure Internet Safety

China's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) announced Thursday that China is to carry out new Internet regulation starting from March 1, 2006 to prevent computer virus spreading, harmful junk e-mails and organized bawdry online activities.

The regulation specifies that Internet service-providers are liable to safeguard the Internet security and the police should supervise all providers.

A series of Internet-based technologies including monitoring computer systems and recording such information as the logon time and the browsed websites are standardized according to the regulation.

The regulation also states that any online safeguarding technique should not be used to infringe upon the individuals' freedom and privacy and at least two members of the police should be at scene when inspecting suspects.

China's Internet-based safeguarding technologies is somewhat backward and are not implemented properly, with no more than 25 percent of the existing safeguarding methods applied by Internet users, said Wu Heping, spokesman with the MPS, at a news briefing on a nationwide campaign of cracking down on-line porn.

Online obscene video chats, gambling and frauds have become serious crimes in recent years and are still rising, said Wu.

From September to November, Chinese public security authorities shut down 598 porn websites and wiped out 35 porn domain names, and all the discovered porn websites in China have been closed as of today, according Wu.

More than 80 percent of the domestic computers were once infected by virus annually in recent years and the daily junk mails flowing to domestic users exceeds 60 million, making China a giant country of sending and receiving junk mails, he said.

Currently, China's Internet users numbers more than 100 million, ranking the second globally. Internet is one of the important parts of Chinese people's life but porn online contents, junk mails and the spread of computer virus have seriously damaged Internet users' legitimate rights.

Together with the Information Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Information Industry, MPS launched a nationwide campaign on cracking down Internet porn like on-line video chatting in September this year.

One MPS official said the public are encouraged to report any online activity violating laws or code of conducts through phones or an official websites net.china.cn.

(Xinhua News Agency December 30, 2005)


Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn
Tel: 86-10-68326688

Meanwhile, NeoProgBlog compares the United States and China:

I had a dream last night. It was about two nations. One nation had the largest trade deficit in its history; the other tripled its trade surplus in just one year, 2005. One was losing manufacturing capacity and calling it good; the other was rapidly increasing its industrial capacity and was described by an international economist as "the factory of the world." One was fighting a discretionary war overseas that was ballooning its annual deficit; the other was at peace and running a balanced budget. The first nation constantly borrowed money from the second nation, but the second nation was starting to become more tight-fisted. One had economic growth of 3.5%, effectively zero when inflation and a flat worker standard-of-living were factored in; the other had economic growth of about 9%. One was experiencing a bond yield inversion, which is almost always a predictor of an economic downturn; the other was not. One's economy was based largely on a constantly-growing housing sector; the other owned a large percentage of the first nation's mortgages. One was on a trend of trimming civil liberties; the other, while not as free as the first, was in the process of liberalizing.

In the process of liberalizing? Good time to check some of the latest from BooYahoo:

Reporters Without Borders has initiated action with the United States, asking them to take action that would ensure freedom of expression on the internet....

Initially, RWB is asking the US Government to urge Internet corporations (which all happen to be US-based companies), to reach an agreement among themselves on a more evolved code of conduct. Barring the success of this, they are recommending the “last resort”....

Kinda like what Congress did to baseball - regulate yourselves or we'll regulate you. Here are the details from rsf.org:

We have listed our recommendations according to the type of service or equipment marketed by Internet companies :

E-mail services :

No US company would be allowed to host e-mail servers within a repressive country*. So, if the authorities of a repressive country want personal information about the user of a US company’s e-mail service, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised by US.

Search engines :

Search engines would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” words. The list of “protected” keywords such as “democracy” or “human rights” should be appended to the law or code of conduct.

Of course, we would have to (horror of horrors!) make a value judgement or two along the way. Let's say James Dobson wanted to provide a search engine for Christian families. Would he be labeled as "repressive" if his service prevented searches for "gay sex with first graders"? Would a Methodist search engine be repressive if it prevented searches for "alcohol"? Would a black search engine be repressive if it prevented searches for "nigger"?


Content hosts (websites, blogs, discussion forums etc)

US companies would not be allowed to locate their host servers within repressive countries. If the authorities of a repressive country desire the closure of a publication hosted by a US company, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised by the US judicial authorities. Like search engines, content hosts would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” key-words.

Internet censorship technologies

Reporters Without Borders proposes two options :

Option a : US companies would no longer be permitted to sell Internet censorship software to repressive states.

Option b : They would still be able to market this type of software but it will have to incorporate a list of “protected” keywords that are rendered technically impossible to censor.

Option b won't work. Restrictions can be broken.

Internet surveillance technology and equipment

US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of Commerce in order to sell to a repressive country any technology or equipment which can be used to intercept electronic communications or which is specifically designed to assist the authorities in monitoring Internet users.


US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of Commerce before providing any programme of training in Internet surveillance and censorship techniques in a repressive country.

* A list of countries that repress freedom of expression would be drawn up on the basis of documents provided by the US State Department and would be appended to the code of conduct or law that is adopted. This list would be regularly updated.

Note : The purpose of these recommendations is to protect freedom of expression. They in no way aim to restrict the necessary cooperation between governments in their efforts to combat terrorism, paedophilia and cyber-crime.

On the other hand, columnist William Pesek Jr. thinks Chinese consumers should boycott the U.S. Internet firms:

"American media companies so far have been very unwilling to take on the Chinese Communist government," said Ted Fishman, author of "China Inc." "They grow up in this culture of free expression and all information for all people, and yet when they go to China, they change their tune very rapidly, agreeing to all of the censorship measures the Chinese government puts on them."...

This issue isn't just about doing the Communist Party's dirty work and compromising human rights; by helping China police cyberspace, technology leaders undermine Asia's second-biggest economy....

In nations that don't police information the way China does, analysts and bloggers are free to speculate about what's really going on with debt, gross domestic product, corporate dealings or public corruption. Those suspicions would find their way onto search engines, often offering a fuller picture of things. This process gives an important boost to transparency....

Censorship is a sign of weakness, not strength. It's also a reminder that China lacks a key economic ingredient: self- confidence....

China will find it harder and harder to police fast-changing technologies and fast-learning bloggers. All Chinese consumers may remember years from now is how the biggest names in technology once helped keep them down. Along with a Chinese firewall, they may be creating barriers between themselves and future users.

I'd like to see the country's consumers boycott Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and others. It's just not clear that the message would reach many in China.

However, I don't think that the U.S. corporations' present dealings in China will necessarily hurt them in the future. Let's look at South Africa:

The [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] hearings produced two lines of thought on the role of business during apartheid. One view, held by many in the business community, was of a governing system that raised the costs of doing business, eroded the country’s skill base and undermined long-term productivity and growth. This view dismisses the notion that business was a willing and knowing beneficiary of apartheid, arguing that that would have required the private sector’s active participation. Rather, they conceded, the business community should simply have done more to fight the system. To quote the South African Chamber of Business’s submission to the TRC, “With the benefit of hindsight, it may be said that the enormity of the apartheid system required stronger responses from business… [and in] the ongoing debate about gradualism versus the all or nothing approach to get rid of apartheid, the stance of these organisations was to push the gradualism arguments to the maximum.”

The dominant and opposing perspective viewed apartheid as part of a system of racial capitalism in which “apartheid was beneficial to white business because it was integral to a system that was designed and premised upon the exploitation of black workers and the destruction of black entrepreneurial activity.” Business as a whole was seen to have benefited even if it was not centrally involved in the design and enforcement of apartheid policies. In short, business was much more than just a passive player in the apartheid landscape, but was an active participant and supporter of the apartheid state. According to the African National Congress (ANC): “at decisive moments in the re-emergence of the democratic movement, business’s initial reaction was invariably one of opposition, victimisation of activists and union officials and recourse to the regime’s security force.” The ANC added in its submission to the TRC that “the role that business either directly or indirectly played in shaping apartheid policies, collaborating with agents of the state and benefiting from the system, implies a level of moral culpability which simply cannot be ignored.”...

In a historic joint statement in 1962 Chief Albert Luthuli of the ANC and the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr called for an “effective international quarantine of apartheid and... a call not to buy South Africa’s products as well as a call not to trade or invest in South Africa.” While some success was achieved during the 1960s and 1970s on the sporting, cultural and political levels, little changed economically, with no great inroads made “in convincing business about the turpitude of doing business with apartheid South Africa.” Indeed, Mr Kollapen noted, many of the businesses who profited most during those two decades are today the subject of litigation. For example, the Apartheid Debt and Reparations Campaign of Jubilee South Africa has taken out lawsuits in US Courts to hold to account those companies seen to have actively aided and abetted apartheid, including those that provided the computers that enabled the South African authorities to create and enforce the system of influx control and those that manufactured “the armoured vehicles used to wreak havoc in the townships.”...

What then of the corporate reaction to...activist pressure? Some companies opted for a code of corporate behaviour in the form of The Sullivan Principles, which urged companies to engage in fair labour practises, be committed to equality and advance corporate responsibility. Mr Kollapen revealed that debate continues to this day about whether such companies should have disinvested rather than remain, albeit with a sense of corporate responsibility. On the one hand many argue that their presence and their progressive policies contributed in some manner to the democratisation of the country – spending money on education, training and uplifting communities that catalysed the struggle for democracy. Others maintain that the mere presence of such corporations gave legitimacy to the government of the day.

If Pesek is correct in his analysis of Chinese reaction to businesses, then South Africa should provide a clear example, and it should be obvious to all that businesses that operated in South Africa during the apartheid era would suffer under the new regime. However, 'tain't so. After apartheid ended, I worked closely with a major South African firm. The firm had supplied goods and services to the apartheid-era governments. The firm continued to supply goods and services to the post-apartheid government. Nothing had changed.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Wow. I am blown away by NeoProgBlog's comparison of the nations. Wow.
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