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> China and the Internet, what is our role?
bucket
post Feb 14 2006, 02:23 PM
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I am sure most of you are now aware the Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have all agreed to participate in restricting freedom in order to do business in China.

They have admitted that..

QUOTE
Google last month launched Google.cn, a version of its No. 1 search engine that prevents Chinese residents from seeing, for example, photos of tanks confronting Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989. Also last month, Microsoft acknowledged shutting down a blog run by a Chinese journalist critical of the government.

Last fall, Yahoo acknowledged giving information to Chinese officials that led to a 10-year prison sentence for a journalist accused of divulging state secrets. Last week, Reporters Without Borders, a journalism group critical of Yahoo's cooperation with Chinese officials, accused it of working with the Chinese government in another case that led to a dissident being jailed. Yahoo said it was unaware of the case.

source

The article I quoted from is about a new bill being drafted that will make it no longer legal for companies to keep servers in nations the State department deems too repressive.

It seems more or less a protective measure against reversed engineering than one on favor of Human Rights, but it would make it more difficult for companies to tailor to these restrictive censorships.

But what is our Government's role in all this? Should we be seeking to end companies collusions with governments who restrict and even punish freedom of speech? In fact our government does actively pursue freedom of information in China through programs like this one....FreeGate:
QUOTE
Voice of America (VOA) and human rights organizations also are paying DIT to help evade the censors and get their message out to the Chinese masses. Says Xiao Qiang, who teaches journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and runs the China Internet Project: "These tools have a critical impact because the people using them are journalists, writers, and opinion leaders."

source


Do you support laws being written to restrict US companies involvement and cooperation with information housing and distribution in nation's that our government feels are repressive to Human Rights?

If not how do you feel we could better address our concerns and champion our principles of freedom?


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VDemosthenes
post Feb 16 2006, 01:25 AM
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QUOTE(bucket @ Feb 14 2006, 09:23 AM)
Do you support laws being written to restrict US companies involvement and cooperation with information housing and distribution in nation's that our government feels are repressive to Human Rights?

If not how do you feel we could better address our concerns and champion our principles of freedom?

*



1.) America should have no meddling in any company dealing with another government. I think that the American system should leave corporations alone and corporations should be permitted to do what they will in a country as they would within reason in that nation's legal system. Human Rights be flogged, government cannot restrict free enterprise just because of an opinion... that is like trying to change a government indirectly by refusing international industry without actual occupying/invading.

2.) By opening up some kind of dialog in order to work with China to remedy/alleviate some of our grievances.



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bucket
post Feb 16 2006, 01:41 AM
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QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
But let me ask you this. You've stated more than a few times that I don't understand what this debate is about so I have a question for you. If Congress intends to pass a bill on the subject what exactly do you believe will be the content of that bill? The news coverage I have seen so far suggests it would be more sanction oriented, preventing these businesses from doing business with China. You've stated that clearly that's not what it is about so what is it about? Is it some resolution to engage china diplomatically? What is it?


It is to establish, recognize and approach online rights as human rights issues. Or as it is appropriately titled..
Global Online Freedom Act of 2006

I already said in my last post that the bill is supposed to be released tomorrow.... then we will all know won't we.

But here is some info that is already up on the web from a Discussion Draft that was released today...

http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversati...TNJ_094_XML.pdf
pssst it's not sanctions oriented.

QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
Sounds to me like they are stating that the US government should pressure China on the censorship topic through diplomatic channels, not interfere with their business. Do you have some other interpretation of these statements?

As a matter of fact I do ...they said several times a leadership role..meaning what? Were they asking the government to lead by setting an expected example or guideline and they will follow?

And through diplomatic channels ..such as what? The other piece of this debate is to offer up some idea of what you believe could be alternatively done.



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Hobbes
post Feb 16 2006, 04:34 AM
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I am going to address these questions from a generic perspective, because I feel the answer to the questions is the same irrespective of company or product involved....probably this applies even more so to Internet companies.

Do you support laws being written to restrict US companies involvement and cooperation with information housing and distribution in nation's that our government feels are repressive to Human Rights?

No, I do not. If you are not interacting with these regimes, you lose your ability to influence them. The question, to me, should really be worded as follows:

Do you support getting as much influence as possible via trade with repressive governments, or do you think we should sit idly by on the sidelines, allowing others to gain influence?

The concept of coercion through restriction of trade is based on the assumption that other nations need our goods and services, and will change their ways to get them. In today's world economy, this is a completely flawed assumption. We will gain far more influence being their provider of any good or service than we will by not doing so. So, if influencing things for the better is the goal, then trade is the vehicle to achieve that. Nothing provides a better example of this than Cuba. We restricted trade to them for decades...how much have conditions improved there?

Another fallacy in the application of trade restrictions for human rights violations is that other countries function as we do. We are a capitalistic, democratic society--if the economy is suffering, the people will put a new government in place. Trade restrictions are essentially designed to hasten this process (although the fact that they do so by attempting to create economic instability and therefore suffering amongst the populace is usually hidden behind proclaimations that we are doing it for principle). In general, the countries with human rights issues are run by ruthless dictators, who really don't care about the plight of their people and will ruthlessly put down any attempted rebellion. In short, trade sanctions have little to no effect in such countries (again, consider Cuba), even if other countries followed with them, which seldom happens---there is always somebody who is willing to provide a desired good or service, rendering the trade sanction essentially useless.

If not how do you feel we could better address our concerns and champion our principles of freedom?

History shows that trade is the vehicle through which change can be enacted. If you are doing business with someone, you are by defaulting interacting with them, exchanging information, exchanging values, etc. This is the surest path to making other countries/cultures aware of whatever values you seek to convery.

This post has been edited by Hobbes: Feb 16 2006, 04:36 AM
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Cube Jockey
post Feb 16 2006, 06:42 AM
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I'm an issue or two behind on my Economist subscription but finally got around to reading an article in the Jan 28, 2006 issue titled Here be Dragons on this exact subject. I found a copy of the article here. Given the facts here it puts Google's position atleast in a whole new light.

QUOTE
The company is making a concerted effort to do just that. It has reached an agreement with the Chinese authorities that allows it to disclose to users, at the bottom of a list of search results, whether information has been withheld. This is similar to what the company does in other countries where it faces content restrictions, such as France and Germany (where Nazi sites are banned), and America (where it removes material that is suspected of copyright infringement). Although the disclosure is more prominent on these western sites, putting such a message on its Chinese site is an important step towards transparency and, furthermore, is something its rivals do not do.

Moreover, Google is tiptoeing into the country with only a handful of services. It is not offering e-mail, blogging or social-networking services, because it worries that it will not be able to ensure users' privacy. It wishes to avoid the situation in which MSN and Yahoo! find themselves, whereby they are forced to obey the Chinese government's orders in censoring content and revealing users' identities. Rather than be placed in a position where it may have to compromise its values, Google instead is narrowing what it offers (although its news service will contain only government-approved media sources).

Google believes that entering China, even with restraints on content, lets it offer more information than if it remained outside. Yet the decision comes as American internet firms such as Yahoo! and MSN duck criticism that they are complicit with the Chinese authorities.


This continues to address several of the misconceptions floating around earlier in this thread, primarily advanced by Bucket. The following apply only to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are in a different boat.

1. The end result is not going to be that much different than the status quo other than the fact that Google will be a more reliable service and will bring more information to the Chinese. Previously users could sometimes access cached pages for things the Chinese government didn't want them to see and in this agreement I don't see how that isn't still possible unless google.com is blocked completely.

After this deal Google will offer Google.cn which will filter out certain results and that will be disclosed at the bottom of the page. That is completely consistent wiith conforming to the laws in other countries such as France and Germany where Nazi sites are banned. We may not like what China is doing but this proves Google is not being inconsistent. One could even make the argument that the statement that results were censored from a search is progress because it let's Chinese users know that where they may have been ignorant of it before. That knowledge alone pretty much defeats the government's position.

2. Google will only offer its search engine and its news service and not things like email, blogs and groups. As they state in the article this removes the possibility of being put in the position of censoring articles written by users or revealing their information. So Bucket, that pretty much makes your earlier rant about Google groups, etc a moot point.

3. As noted in this ZDNet article Google does capture some information abbout how people use their services that could potentially be assembled into profiles. However, I find it highly hypocritical that we'd have a problem with China doing that (when they likely have similar measures in place anyway) when these very same lawmakers have absolutely no problem with our own government doing that (see google's case with the Feds).

So with all of that in mind I'm now comfortable supporting Google in their endeavors here because they have compromised little and gained much. With the flow of information ignorance is always defeated eventually.

QUOTE(Bucket)
http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversati...TNJ_094_XML.pdf
pssst it's not sanctions oriented.


Let's get right down to the meat of this:
QUOTE
It shall be the policy of the United States—
(1) to promote the ability of all to access and contribute information, ideas, and knowledge via the
Internet and to advance the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers as a fundamental componentof United States foreign policy;

(2) to use all instruments of United States influence, including diplomacy, trade policy, and export controls, to support, promote, and strengthen principles, practices, and values that promote the free flow of information; and

(3) to prohibit any United States businesses from cooperating with officials of Internet-restricting countries in effecting the political censorship of online content.


So now that we have this in plain terms, item 2 could include sanctions and item 3 is by definition sanctions Bucket. If China wouldn't do business with an American company without them restricting certain content then that is the defintion of sanctions or if you prefer an embargo. And actually France and Germany could potentially kiss Google and other services goodbye based on this law because of their censorship of Nazism.

So, if you'd like me to pass some salt and pepper to go with that crow I'd be happy to.

QUOTE(bucket)
The other piece of this debate is to offer up some idea of what you believe could be alternatively done.


Ok I can answer this now. First the US government should stay out of it. Second companies like Microsoft and Yahoo can follow the lead of Google and compromise with the Chinese but not allow services like email, etc so they don't have to completely compromise their principles. You as a consumer can boycott any of these companies if you so choose.

This post has been edited by Cube Jockey: Feb 16 2006, 06:43 AM
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bucket
post Feb 16 2006, 03:00 PM
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QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
This continues to address several of the misconceptions floating around earlier in this thread, primarily advanced by Bucket. The following apply only to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are in a different boat.

I said I did not know what services they offer, still the search engine alone collects gobs of "personal data" that is the whole objective of Google.


QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
That is completely consistent wiith conforming to the laws in other countries such as France and Germany where Nazi sites are banned. We may not like what China is doing but this proves Google is not being inconsistent. One could even make the argument that the statement that results were censored from a search is progress because it let's Chinese users know that where they may have been ignorant of it before. That knowledge alone pretty much defeats the government's position. 


Completely consistent? Do you have any proof that how China chooses to censor and silence unwanted political views is consistent to how it is done in France and Germany? That is quite an accusation. It is not about the laws themselves obviously, it is about how and what the laws do, how they are enforced and what their objectives are..are they a violation of Human Rights? Do you honestly feel that Germany and France are a completely consistent comparison?

And you don't think Chinese citizens knew their government was censoring the internet before...you think they needed Google to tell them this?


QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
Google will only offer its search engine and its news service and not things like email, blogs and groups. As they state in the article this removes the possibility of being put in the position of censoring articles written by users or revealing their information. So Bucket, that pretty much makes your earlier rant about Google groups, etc a moot point. 

Um no it does not because what Google really says is they are still working out how they will offer these services with the Chinese Government.
Other products – such as Gmail and Blogger – that involve personal and confidential information will be introduced only when we are comfortable that we can provide them in a way that protects users’ expectations about that information.
source
So again if you apply this to the actual topic of debate...what is our role in this? Should the US government define what would be considered a comfortable protection for Chinese users? Or should we allow Google et al. to self regulate? How is that moot? Shouldn't the world's largest superpower have some kind of foreign policy for promoting Human Rights ?

And my "rant" is not supposed to be about Google only. You are the one that keeps insisting on talking on about all google google google.

QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
As noted in this ZDNet article Google does capture some information abbout how people use their services that could potentially be assembled into profiles. However, I find it highly hypocritical that we'd have a problem with China doing that (when they likely have similar measures in place anyway) when these very same lawmakers have absolutely no problem with our own government doing that (see google's case with the Feds). 

Google has refused to cooperate so much for their little excuse about just following the local government's demands. I already commented on this issue in a past posting.

QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
So now that we have this in plain terms, item 2 could include sanctions and item 3 is by definition sanctions Bucket. If China wouldn't do business with an American company without them restricting certain content then that is the defintion of sanctions or if you prefer an embargo. 

Cube Jockey I didn't know if you were aware of this but all trade in the US is subject to sanctions and embargoes in accordance to set guidelines or rules the US government has designed. So essentially our entire foreign policy on trade is sanction or embargo "oriented".

My point was that it appears the objective of this bill is to not place sanctions on US companies..but instead to restrict or establish guidelines for US companies to follow in order to protect and promote online freedom. Of course sanctions could ultimately be implemented...as they could in most cases dealing with trade, but that is not the intended purpose here.

We installed an arms embargo on China as a result or reaction to the Tiananmen Square incident, as a direct response to human rights concerns. Do you object to these sanctions too? How does this restriction of goods and services differentiate from any others? And if we could implement such a sweeping and long lasting embargoes on China for Human Rights concerns, even under immense political pressure, why would we need to reconsider the same principle here?

This post has been edited by bucket: Feb 16 2006, 03:02 PM
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Cube Jockey
post Feb 16 2006, 05:27 PM
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QUOTE(bucket @ Feb 16 2006, 07:00 AM)
My point was that it appears the objective of this bill is to not place sanctions on US companies..but instead to restrict or establish guidelines for US companies to follow in order to protect and promote online freedom.  Of course sanctions could ultimately be implemented...as they could in most cases dealing with trade, but that is not the intended purpose here. 
*


I'm only going to respond to this and I'm going to say that you need to re-read the bill because it is right there in black and white and in plain english. You are coming up with some pretty creative interpretations if you believe otherwise, that or you have some inside information from the congressmen who wrote it.

QUOTE(Bucket)
So again if you apply this to the actual topic of debate...what is our role in this?

I've answered that question a few times now, it isn't my fault if you care to ignore it.
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psyclist
post Feb 16 2006, 05:47 PM
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QUOTE(bucket @ Feb 16 2006, 10:00 AM)
QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
This continues to address several of the misconceptions floating around earlier in this thread, primarily advanced by Bucket. The following apply only to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are in a different boat.

I said I did not know what services they offer, still the search engine alone collects gobs of "personal data" that is the whole objective of Google.


Bucket, as I stated earlier, the personal data that Google collects can also be collected by China. The special algorithms that Google uses that you mentioned previously data are just mining techniques used to build a user profile to enhance marketing, namely to serve up Google Ads that you're more likely to buy. I really don't think that this is the kind of information that China is interested in. If it is, I'm sure they'd go straight to the source and grab all the credit card transactions you made. China is probably more interested in what person is writing to the "Democracy for China Now" blog...which is information China can obtain without google's help.


Should the US government define what would be considered a comfortable protection for Chinese users?


I really don't see what this bill has to do with this question but I'll answer it anyways. China is a soverign nation. We can't do anything to change their laws just like they can't change ours. Trying to use companies such as Google as a proxy to change laws wont and shouldn't happen. That should be left to the politicians.

This post has been edited by psyclist: Feb 16 2006, 06:18 PM
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Politaca
post Feb 16 2006, 08:17 PM
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Do you support laws being written to restrict US companies involvement and cooperation with information housing and distribution in nation's that our government feels are repressive to Human Rights?

I think part of doing international business is respecting the host country's culture and practices, whether you like them or not. Point is this, if google, yahoo, etc don't abide by these other countries policies you can be darn sure that another search engine company will and, in a market a big as China, that engine will probably by-pass those that chose not to participate in the market. The U.S. government should not be able to choose which U.S. companies can and which companies Can not do business with China or any country that we do not have any set restrictions with.

If not how do you feel we could better address our concerns and champion our principles of freedom?

I think that we already champion of principles of freedom enough
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bucket
post Feb 17 2006, 02:11 PM
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QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
   
I'm only going to respond to this and I'm going to say that you need to re-read the bill because it is right there in black and white and in plain english. You are coming up with some pretty creative interpretations if you believe otherwise, that or you have some inside information from the congressmen who wrote it.

I am sure the bill will go through many changes, in fact Rep. Chris Smith has welcomed and invited comments and suggestions from all parties involved.

This is only the beginning and I personally welcome any opening of dialogue on this subject, it is an important issue in regards to Human Rights and what our role is in promoting it. I don't understand your reluctance and refusal to discuss and consider the fact that we might have more that we can do, or require other's to do.

So in keeping with the topic of debate...do you have any comments or suggestions about the bill itself and how it could better address human rights issues?

EFF does here is their open letter to the committee:
A Code of Conduct for Internet Companies in Authoritarian Regimes

In considering how these companies might construct their services to best serve global human rights, we believe that simple guidelines, consciously followed, could significantly limit the damage caused by corporate engagement with these regimes. Both the U.S. government and American Internet corporations have a opportunity, and a duty, to defend human rights.

You stated earlier ..The news coverage I have seen so far suggests it would be more sanction oriented, preventing these businesses from doing business with China.

I have shown that it appears that really isn’t the intention of the bill, if it was then the bill would seek to sanction internet businesses from operating in designated restrictive countries completely. Instead this bill appears to seek to define a code of conduct, or guidelines for companies who are still being permitted to do business in China, or any other designated restrictive country, to abide by. How is that sanctions ? How is that an embargo? It isn’t, it is trade regulations, something that I have been reminding you and you have been ignoring, that we apply and participate and require quite regularly.

I find it very telling that those who claim they oppose any restriction or guidelines being set for international trade, especially when it concerns Human Rights abuses, will not address my questions on the arms embargo on China that was a direct response to our government's concerns about Human Rights in China. How is the principle not the same in regards to this issue?


Psyclist I have no idea what data the Chinese government finds important or not important but what exactly is this “user profile” ? Isn’t it a collection of the data that people search on and what links they click on...or their personal activity? Isn’t it a form of internet monitoring software? And I don’t care if China or any other nation for that matter can collect this data themselves..great then let them implement and enforce their own despotic totalitarian regime. That is the entire point of this issue..should the government restrict American companies from assisting them?

And since when have we not enforced, implemented and practiced international trade regulations?
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Cube Jockey
post Feb 17 2006, 07:21 PM
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QUOTE(bucket @ Feb 17 2006, 06:11 AM)
EFF does here is their open letter to the committee:   
A Code of Conduct for Internet Companies in Authoritarian Regimes   
   
In considering how these companies might construct their services to best serve global human rights, we believe that simple guidelines, consciously followed, could significantly limit the damage caused by corporate engagement with these regimes. Both the U.S. government and American Internet corporations have a opportunity, and a duty, to defend human rights.   
   
You stated earlier ..The news coverage I have seen so far suggests it would be more sanction oriented, preventing these businesses from doing business with China.     
   
I have shown that it appears that really isn’t the intention of the bill, if it was then the bill would seek to sanction internet businesses from operating in designated restrictive countries completely.  Instead this bill appears to seek to define a code of conduct, or guidelines for companies who are still being permitted to do business in China,  or any other designated restrictive country, to abide by.  How is that sanctions ? How is that an embargo? It isn’t,  it is trade regulations, something that I have been reminding you and you have been ignoring, that we apply and participate and require quite regularly.     
*



Bucket, let's look at the text of the current bill that you linked again.
QUOTE
It shall be the policy of the United States—
(1) to promote the ability of all to access and contribute information, ideas, and knowledge via the
Internet and to advance the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers as a fundamental componentof United States foreign policy;

(2) to use all instruments of United States influence, including diplomacy, trade policy, and export controls, to support, promote, and strengthen principles, practices, and values that promote the free flow of information; and

(3) to prohibit any United States businesses from cooperating with officials of Internet-restricting countries in effecting the political censorship of online content.


Now I'm not a lawyer but if a bill says that it will prohibit US Businesses from allowing a given country to engage in political censorship with their services then what exactly do you feel the outcome of that will be on the enforcement side? Is it your opinion that this is a feel-good measure or that item 3 above is simply optional? What happens if a business such as the ones being discussed here do engage in this kind of behavior? The only option I really see here is some kind of embargo.

It is fine to have a code of conduct, but what happens if that code is broken or if it ismply isn't possible to do business with a country and follow those rules? That is the question that you keep dodging and the reason why we are talking in circles around each other.

I'm of the opinion that the United States should not be using US Companies as an arm of their foreign policy, period. If there is a compelling reason to not sell a technology to a country in the interest of national security or something else that is one thing. If a company is violating international laws that is also one thing. But to expect that the laws of the US should apply in other countries doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

I'm not arguing with you that China is a bad actor in all of this. But the appropriate way to address the problem is not by using US companies as pawns in some sort of foreign policy standoff. The appropriate thing to do is to engage the company, government to government, through diplomacy and in parallel get the appropriate UN committees involved.

If you believe that US Companies should be used as pawns in this foreign policy game then we are never going to agree on this subject regardless of shared feelings about China.
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post Feb 17 2006, 09:29 PM
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Do you support laws being written to restrict US companies involvement and cooperation with information housing and distribution in nation's that our government feels are repressive to Human Rights?

It depends on how they're written and implemented, but I don't object to it on principle.

If not how do you feel we could better address our concerns and champion our principles of freedom?

Engagement at all levels: individuals, companies, and governments.

It's a difficult problem to avoid enabling the bad behavior, without destroying your chance to influence it. I think Google is trying to do the right thing. Yahoo!'s behavior looks quite a bit worse (handing over identifying information about dissidents).

QUOTE(Cube Jockey @ Feb 17 2006, 11:21 AM)
QUOTE
It shall be the policy of the United States—
(1) to promote the ability of all to access and contribute information, ideas, and knowledge via the
Internet and to advance the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers as a fundamental componentof United States foreign policy;

(2) to use all instruments of United States influence, including diplomacy, trade policy, and export controls, to support, promote, and strengthen principles, practices, and values that promote the free flow of information; and

(3) to prohibit any United States businesses from cooperating with officials of Internet-restricting countries in effecting the political censorship of online content.


Now I'm not a lawyer but if a bill says that it will prohibit US Businesses from allowing a given country to engage in political censorship with their services then what exactly do you feel the outcome of that will be on the enforcement side? Is it your opinion that this is a feel-good measure or that item 3 above is simply optional? What happens if a business such as the ones being discussed here do engage in this kind of behavior? The only option I really see here is some kind of embargo.

This is similar to the restrictions we put on chemical companies under the Chemical Weapons Convention. We don't prevent companies from dealing in the technology (which can also be used for pesticides and other peaceful purposes), but we do require them to make sure their services aren't being used to make chemical weapons. If the recipient countries try to use them for chemical weapons anyway, I guess we're in an embargo situation.

QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
I'm of the opinion that the United States should not be using US Companies as an arm of their foreign policy, period.  If there is a compelling reason to not sell a technology to a country in the interest of national security or something else that is one thing.  If a company is violating international laws that is also one thing.  But to expect that the laws of the US should apply in other countries doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

OK, chemical weapons are the subject of a UN convention, while censorship isn't. I think our foreign policy should go beyond the least-common-denominator recognition of human rights that the UN can agree to.
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post Feb 17 2006, 09:52 PM
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QUOTE(Jobius @ Feb 17 2006, 01:29 PM)
OK, chemical weapons are the subject of a UN convention, while censorship isn't.  I think our foreign policy should go beyond the least-common-denominator recognition of human rights that the UN can agree to.
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That is reasonable as well. I just really don't like the way the law is written right now and it shows evidence of being written by people that don't have a firm grasp of technology and more specifically web technology.

For example, this law could be applied to places like Germany and France which exercise a form of political censorship by not allowing anything related to nazism. It could also apply to places like Turkey which by law don't even allow you to talk about certain parts of history, like the armenian massacre. There are certainly degrees of difference here, but poorly written laws get us into trouble and this one is not solid.

With regard to this specific situation I'd say that the standards Google has applied are acceptable, while the standards Microsoft and Yahoo have applied are not. There can be benefit by exposing the Chinese to more information, even if a company must play by their rules to a certain extent. However, when that crosses over into things like handing over emails to the government (yahoo) and going on to blogs and physically censoring them (microsoft) that is a different ballgame in my opinion.

This law does not distinguish between those situations and to me there is a huge difference.

I can also say that it would be nice if the Republicans (e.g. Rep Chris Smith and others) didn't exhibit such a high degree of hypocrisy in matters like this. They appear to be championing this iniative in the guise of human rights but here at home they are pressuring these same companies to hand over records to them in order to wage war on pornography. Once again Google has distinguished itself by going to court over the matter.
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bucket
post Feb 17 2006, 10:57 PM
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QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
Now I'm not a lawyer but if a bill says that it will prohibit US Businesses from allowing a given country to engage in political censorship with their services then what exactly do you feel the outcome of that will be on the enforcement side? Is it your opinion that this is a feel-good measure or that item 3 above is simply optional? What happens if a business such as the ones being discussed here do engage in this kind of behavior? The only option I really see here is some kind of embargo.   


Also just to add to what Jobius offered as an example of trade laws, or regulations. I feel the bill proposes restrictions and guidelines to be implemented to still allow trade in China, we have to still allow trade with China we do have trade agreements with them. It is restrictions yes but we have always had trade laws, restrictions and regulations in place in order to protect human rights when dealing with international trade.
Did you know certain trade of crime control devices and devices that can be considered dual use for torture or abuse require special oversight for export to designated countries? Some of these laws are implemented by our own country's government or as Jobius showed by international law.

Do you oppose these as well? And if not why are you asking for special consideration and treatment for internet companies?

QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
This law does not distinguish between those situations and to me there is a huge difference.

It isn't a law...it is a bill, still just a bill.

This post has been edited by bucket: Feb 17 2006, 11:08 PM
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Cube Jockey
post Feb 18 2006, 12:21 AM
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QUOTE(bucket @ Feb 17 2006, 02:57 PM)
Do you oppose these as well?  And if not why are you asking for special consideration and treatment for internet companies? 
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I just responded to that bucket and I believe I was pretty clear about it. See this quote:
QUOTE
I'm of the opinion that the United States should not be using US Companies as an arm of their foreign policy, period. If there is a compelling reason to not sell a technology to a country in the interest of national security or something else that is one thing. If a company is violating international laws that is also one thing. But to expect that the laws of the US should apply in other countries doesn't make a whole lot of sense.


And this post.

Political censorship violates no international law that I am aware of Bucket. It is not the same as laws governing the use of weapons, nuclear technology, chemicals, torture, etc. It is certainly a value that our nation hopes to spread, but it is not something that we should be in the business of forcing upon other countries. If we do get into that business then there are a lot more concerns than just China although they are certainly one of the worst violators.

As I also said in my previous posts this bill doesn't get the job done it is too broad and undefined and it shows a lack of understanding of the actual situation. It is pretty typical of our politicians actually - create some bill for a perceived political problem that is overly broad and undefined and doesn't address the actual problem.
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Scipio Africanus
post Feb 18 2006, 12:56 AM
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QUOTE(Cube Jockey @ Feb 17 2006, 12:21 PM)
QUOTE(bucket @ Feb 17 2006, 06:11 AM)
EFF does here is their open letter to the committee:   
A Code of Conduct for Internet Companies in Authoritarian Regimes   
   
In considering how these companies might construct their services to best serve global human rights, we believe that simple guidelines, consciously followed, could significantly limit the damage caused by corporate engagement with these regimes. Both the U.S. government and American Internet corporations have a opportunity, and a duty, to defend human rights.   
   
You stated earlier ..The news coverage I have seen so far suggests it would be more sanction oriented, preventing these businesses from doing business with China.     
    
I have shown that it appears that really isn’t the intention of the bill, if it was then the bill would seek to sanction internet businesses from operating in designated restrictive countries completely.  Instead this bill appears to seek to define a code of conduct, or guidelines for companies who are still being permitted to do business in China,  or any other designated restrictive country, to abide by.  How is that sanctions ? How is that an embargo? It isn’t,  it is trade regulations, something that I have been reminding you and you have been ignoring, that we apply and participate and require quite regularly.     
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Bucket, let's look at the text of the current bill that you linked again.
QUOTE
It shall be the policy of the United States—
(1) to promote the ability of all to access and contribute information, ideas, and knowledge via the
Internet and to advance the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers as a fundamental componentof United States foreign policy;

(2) to use all instruments of United States influence, including diplomacy, trade policy, and export controls, to support, promote, and strengthen principles, practices, and values that promote the free flow of information; and

(3) to prohibit any United States businesses from cooperating with officials of Internet-restricting countries in effecting the political censorship of online content.


Now I'm not a lawyer but if a bill says that it will prohibit US Businesses from allowing a given country to engage in political censorship with their services then what exactly do you feel the outcome of that will be on the enforcement side? Is it your opinion that this is a feel-good measure or that item 3 above is simply optional? What happens if a business such as the ones being discussed here do engage in this kind of behavior? The only option I really see here is some kind of embargo.

It is fine to have a code of conduct, but what happens if that code is broken or if it ismply isn't possible to do business with a country and follow those rules? That is the question that you keep dodging and the reason why we are talking in circles around each other.

I'm of the opinion that the United States should not be using US Companies as an arm of their foreign policy, period. If there is a compelling reason to not sell a technology to a country in the interest of national security or something else that is one thing. If a company is violating international laws that is also one thing. But to expect that the laws of the US should apply in other countries doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

I'm not arguing with you that China is a bad actor in all of this. But the appropriate way to address the problem is not by using US companies as pawns in some sort of foreign policy standoff. The appropriate thing to do is to engage the company, government to government, through diplomacy and in parallel get the appropriate UN committees involved.

If you believe that US Companies should be used as pawns in this foreign policy game then we are never going to agree on this subject regardless of shared feelings about China.
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I believe that we this law is helpful and may be necessary in the future but is not currently needed. Look at what happened to Google after it cooperated with the Chinese government to censure certain search words, it stocks have tumbled. Though it seems impossible, Google stocks have suffered lately and I do not think that it is coincidence that it happened just after Google cooperated with China. I as well as many other apparently are disgusted with Google's pandering to China, all American companies should be in the business of exporting freedom before they seek to gain the respect of outsiders. Fortunately people have responded the right way to Google's poor decision making. Google has been punished for what they did and hopeful other companies will suffer if they refuse to export freedom to other nations.

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Cube Jockey
post Feb 18 2006, 01:56 AM
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QUOTE(Scipio Africanus @ Feb 17 2006, 04:56 PM)
Look at what happened to Google after it cooperated with the Chinese government to censure certain search words, it stocks have tumbled. Though it seems impossible, Google stocks have suffered lately and I do not think that it is coincidence that it happened just after Google cooperated with China. I as well as many other apparently are disgusted with Google's pandering to China, all American companies should be in the business of exporting freedom before they seek to gain the respect of outsiders. Fortunately people have responded the right way to Google's poor decision making. Google has been punished for what they did and hopeful other companies will suffer if they refuse to export freedom to other nations.
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I don't think I have to go too far out on a limb to say that investors for the most part don't care about whether a company "exports freedom" or not, they care about money. If they did then Wal-Mart's stock wouldn't be worth a cent!

But as for the explanation for Google's stock, this may be a minor contributing factor but it isn't the cause. Google's stock first took a dive when they released their 4th quarter earnings because they exceeded expectations but didn't exceed them enough. I think the value fell something like 8%. They also took a little bit of a hit when they announced thhey were going to battle the feds in court, wall street doesn't like legal battles because they get expensive. But what we are seeing is probably much more a result of people saying "the stock is at $368, its looking like the ride may be ending, time to sell" than people saying "I'm not going to support a company that doesn't export freedom!" Don't believe me? Go read the reports and look at the stock history, this started earlier this year.

Also for your theory to hold any water we'dd have to see Microsoft, Yahoo, Cisco and others taking a hit and I don't see that.
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psyclist
post Feb 18 2006, 01:56 AM
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QUOTE(Scipio Africanus @ Feb 17 2006, 07:56 PM)
I believe that we this law is helpful and may be necessary in the future but is not currently needed. Look at what happened to Google after it cooperated with the Chinese government to censure certain search words, it stocks have tumbled. Though it seems impossible, Google stocks have suffered lately and I do not think that it is coincidence that it happened just after Google cooperated with China. I as well as many other apparently are disgusted with Google's pandering to China, all American companies should be in the business of exporting freedom before they seek to gain the respect of outsiders. Fortunately people have responded the right way to Google's poor decision making. Google has been punished for what they did and hopeful other companies will suffer if they refuse to export freedom to other nations.
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I am interested in what leads you to think this (other than the article on TheStreet.com). As someone who follows the market very closely (near obession) I don't see this being the case. Traders could care less about ethics unless it involves cooking the books. They would never sell shares to "punish" a company. If they do, they wouldn't last long on the street (Wall Street that is) as they'd lose tons of money. The Google pullback was expected, everyone knew it was coming. You can't expect that kind of run and not expect a sell off. It's worht mentioning that the pull back occured the same time all the other "hot stocks" had their pull back (energy, gold/metals, semis and drilling). They all took a hit and they're already bouncing back (most of the price points I've seen for google are around $500). By all measures, Google has the fastest growth of any company probably in the history of the market and the market loves growth. Most tech people just brush this bill off as another ill informed piece of legislation.

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bucket
post Feb 18 2006, 02:10 AM
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QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
I'm of the opinion that the United States should not be using US Companies as an arm of their foreign policy, period. If there is a compelling reason to not sell a technology to a country in the interest of national security or something else that is one thing. If a company is violating international laws that is also one thing. But to expect that the laws of the US should apply in other countries doesn't make a whole lot of sense.


Exactly how is a nation's foreign policy separated and from it's foreign trade policy? American companies have gobs of laws that apply to them when they operate internationally. Are you against all of those too? Even the US Constitution disagrees with you:
Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; ....
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;



QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
Political censorship violates no international law that I am aware of Bucket. It is not the same as laws governing the use of weapons, nuclear technology, chemicals, torture, etc. It is certainly a value that our nation hopes to spread, but it is not something that we should be in the business of forcing upon other countries. If we do get into that business then there are a lot more concerns than just China although they are certainly one of the worst violators.


I have been trying to explain that my position is that human rights are a collective group of principles, and that we use language like this word "rights" in order to express our interpretation and value of these principles to such a degree we believe they deserve legal standing.

So essentially what is the difference from torture, slavery, or political suppression? They are all part of these rights we claim all humans deserve. It is not something we define separately by rank or order of importance and it is not something we define by state or nation. In fact the opposite as it is the rejection that local laws or territory can restrict these universal freedoms or rights that all humans deserve.

I suggest you read the UN The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which China is a participant.
The opening Preamble states:
Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights,

Considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms,

Realizing that the individual, having duties to other individuals and to the community to which he belongs, is under a responsibility to strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in the present Covenant,
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post Feb 18 2006, 03:19 AM
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QUOTE(bucket @ Feb 17 2006, 09:10 PM)
QUOTE(Cube Jockey)
I'm of the opinion that the United States should not be using US Companies as an arm of their foreign policy, period. If there is a compelling reason to not sell a technology to a country in the interest of national security or something else that is one thing. If a company is violating international laws that is also one thing. But to expect that the laws of the US should apply in other countries doesn't make a whole lot of sense.


Exactly how is a nation's foreign policy separated and from it's foreign trade policy? American companies have gobs of laws that apply to them when they operate internationally. Are you against all of those too? Even the US Constitution disagrees with you:
Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; ....
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;



Their is a difference between regulating the commerce that a company does with a foreign nation and using the company as a proxy for political means. Promoting free speech is not Google's job. That's not why they started their company. They are not politicians. Their responsibility is to their share holders. Can you imagine if every company had their own "foreign policy"? Bucket, seriously, what kind of message are we sending China when we say: "Google, Micro$oft, Yahoo, Cisco can't play because we don't like China's Human Rights record but Wal-Mart and Toy-R-US and tons of other retailers you can continue to trade." You think the message is going to get through to China? Why didn't the CEOs of those retail companies have to get grilled by Congress? Doesn't Section 8 apply to them as well?

In my opinion we have two options that make sense:

1.) The US makes it so NO company can play with China until China gets their Human Rights up to speed. This makes it so ALL US companies are abiding by the same set of standards. (In theory, we'd do the same with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela as well) This sends a clear message to China that we mean umm (no) business.

or

2.) We allow the US companies to continue to do business with China (obviously we wont be selling them any arms or anything) and the US POLITICIANS try and push for Human Rights issues in China.



QUOTE(bucket @ Feb 17 2006, 09:10 PM)
I have been trying to explain that my position is that human rights are a collective group of principles, and that we use language like this word "rights" in order to express our interpretation and value of these  principles to such a degree we believe they deserve legal standing. 
 
So essentially what is the difference from torture, slavery, or political suppression? They are all part of these rights we claim all humans deserve.  It is not something we define separately by rank or order of importance and it is not something we define by state or nation. In fact the opposite as it is the rejection that local laws or territory can restrict these universal freedoms or rights that all humans deserve. 
 
I suggest you read the UN The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which China is a participant. 
The opening Preamble states: 
Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights, 
 
Considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms, 
 
Realizing that the individual, having duties to other individuals and to the community to which he belongs, is under a responsibility to strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in the present Covenant,

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You're exactly right, their is no order of importance for Human Rights. So, if Google can't do business with China because China has Human Rights problems, then Wal-Mart can't either.

This post has been edited by psyclist: Feb 18 2006, 03:20 AM
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bucket
post Feb 18 2006, 04:47 PM
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QUOTE(psyclist)
Their is a difference between regulating the commerce that a company does with a foreign nation and using the company as a proxy for political means. Promoting free speech is not Google's job. That's not why they started their company. They are not politicians. Their responsibility is to their share holders. Can you imagine if every company had their own "foreign policy"?


I don't understand your argument at all. First you seem to reject the idea that companies do have other responsibilities other than to their share holders, and that is not the least bit true. Putting aside the "feel good" obligations they have through social responsibility to their consumers, legally they have many things our government holds them accountable and yes responsible for. And they are required to promote "rights" our government has chosen to legally require of them. Their share holders are one of many parties holding their behavior and actions accountable. Why do you in this debate continually ignore and pretend that American companies do not already have tons of legislation and trade laws already holding them accountable for the US government's political means?
Either you're not being intellectually honest or you are arguing from the point of principle, not reality.

QUOTE(psyclist)
seriously, what kind of message are we sending China when we say: "Google, Micro$oft, Yahoo, Cisco can't play because we don't like China's Human Rights record but Wal-Mart and Toy-R-US and tons of other retailers you can continue to trade." You think the message is going to get through to China? Why didn't the CEOs of those retail companies have to get grilled by Congress? Doesn't Section 8 apply to them as well?


The constitution applies to all Americans. Human rights , more specifically labor rights have been addressed by our government. We have a bureau that deals with handles and recognizes our foreign political goals towards Human Rights in labor..here is the web site:
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs There is also a international agency the ILO of the UN that also recognizes labor rights.

Here you will find a link to a listing of all US trade agreements with various nations that require labor rights recognition. What is a trade agreement exactly? Do we consider it sanctions and embargoes oriented as well?
This section of trade agreements offers each agreement's laws regarding human rights issues on labor by topic... child labor, employment impact and basic labor rights in PDF you can go read them and then maybe finally address the question I have been asking over and over....why are you asking for special consideration and treatment for internet companies?

Of course these agreements are not all inclusive as we do not have agreements like this with all nations as it has to be a joint effort. Would China willfully agree to these regulations? Human rights issue have always been at the forefront of our consideration and decisions to more forward with more liberal trade with China, you have not proven otherwise. I feel this is just a continuation of how we have always approached trade relations with this country and others like China.

China and the US really only have the WTO currently, but the WTO is full of laws and regulations that each member state is expected to again be held responsible to. The WTO does not have child labor laws but instead has voted or opted to recognize the ILO as the international body of authority on labor rights. Do you disagree with this too? Do you feel this is also an unfair burden or holding of responsibility for corporations?
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