Sunday, January 15, 2006

Microsoft & PRC vs. China Blogger & Free Speech

The story was in today's San Jose Mercury News
The issue is that Microsoft's MSN division shut down a blogger, who went by the name "Anti", who was using it's service and making political statement's critical of the government in The People's Republic of China (PRC). This story has also been on CNN [Link]. I am deeply troubled with how our American companies, specifically Microsoft in this situation, embrace doing business in and with and cater to the oppressive policies of countries that have such a poor record on human rights, specifically China in this situation. According to CNN:

International companies have adopted Chinese standards, saying they must obey local laws.

Microsoft's Web log service bars use of terms such as "democracy" and "human rights." On the China-based portal of search engine Google, a search for material the Dalai Lama, Taiwan and other sensitive topics returns a message saying "site cannot be found."

In an increasingly flat world with global markets and supply chains we are seeing what seems to be a race to supply goods, services and that means jobs at the lowest cost possible. Can freedom and freedom of speech survive if global corporations are willing to sacrifice their principles so quickly to make a buck. Can they be blamed even for doing so, if their competitors are doing so? Can a company survive if it doesn't do so?

China is such a big market, and such a major part of the global supply chain that companies are going to coddle them if people do not take a stand and stop it. But, if the providers of information to the Internet ban such speech in fear of loosing both a huge market and angering their chief global supplier, what hope is there?

Microsoft Evangelist Robert Scoble, who at one time offered space on his own blog [Link] to the Chinese dissident blogger, has been silent on this subject for awhile. As John Welch [Link] one of the commenters to the most recent post [Link] I can find that Scoble made on the subject said:

with China’s economic power, when China says “jump”, MS says “How High”.

Well said John. I wish more folks were paying attention to this issue. Scoble, with all the Google Juice he has, is in a position to greatly increase the visibility of this situation.


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