Friday, November 08, 2002

The eGreat Wall of China

The People's Republic of China has always been interested in restricting its citizens access to the Internet. Apparently they have been employing U.S. Corporation's technology in doing so as this article states.

Another case of "What do you do?".

China has been granted favored trading status by the U.S. Government and admitted into the World Trade Organization. They are simply buying technology from U.S. Corporations that can be used to meet their own internal needs, as repugnant as a free society might find them. As long as U.S. Corporations don't export 'secret' technology, they are simply obeying the law and attempting to make inroads to a new market. After all, this is the whole purpose behind a corporation, to make money for its shareholders. As much as some of you want to believe that Corporations have to act in any other manner, this is simply not the case. The way to control a Corporations actions is either through the public witholding funds and refusing to buy the companies products or stock, or through legislation.

I prefer the former solution. I have observed that public pressure is far more effective than adding to the plethora of bureaucratic rules and regulations that are almost always inefficiently enforced. However, this situation begs for legislative action. Should we allow corporations to export this sort of technology to the PRC that will allow them to more efficiently repress free expression in their country.

However, where do you draw the line? What technology or products do you "ban"? Where do you draw the line and who decides where that line is? I am a firm believer in the "Slippery Slope" effect. Once you start down a path that involves Governmental intervention, it soon grows beyond its original scope and new restrictions creep into the system. Once entrenched, they are almost impossible to remove and soon are used not for their original purpose, but to forward someone's political agenda.

It would be interesting if Corporations also added the ability for the censoring/spying functions to be "turned off" remotely. However if this were discovered, they wouldn't be able to sell their products anywhere as there would be no trust in the items to be free from outside control.

I'm glad I don't have to make these decisions. However, I do not like American companies selling this sort of technology to the PRC, and if given the chance I would let involved corporations know about it.