The internet has been the most prolific purveyor and dispenser of information in human history. It has broken down the barriers of ignorance as access to more information becomes increasingly available. Access to such information is made possible through such companies as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and the networking giant, Cisco. It is therefore ironic to think that these same companies are promoters of censorship.
On the anniversary of the June 1989 “Tiananmen Square” incident, PBS aired the Frontline special “The Tank Man”. It was then, I became aware of the disgusting policies of Yahoo, Google and Cisco. These companies have chosen to assist China in the promotion of its policy of “control to the access of information.”
In an interview, some students enrolled at Beijing University, ground zero for the 1989 student protests, were given a picture of ‘tank man” (the infamous image of the Tiananmen Square protests) and were asked to explain its context. Shockingly, not one of these students was able to identify the significance of this picture.
This is where the western IT companies come in.
According to an article in the YaleGlobal Online by Mary Kinnon, Chinese people who tried to set up blogs were red flagged by the Microsoft program when words like “democracy”, “human rights” or “freedom” were used . The system indicated that these words were profane.
Google did not start its operation in China by complying with government restrictions, but soon realized that the operation in China would cease to exist without them.
Google embarked on a self-imposed censorship when it created Google China in 2005.
“Cisco routers,” according to the YaleGlobal Online”, have the ability to block .main addresses for web sites” and “also specific sub-pages while leaving the rest of the page accessible.”
The most jarring consequences of China’s censorship policies aided by U.S. companies, lies with Yahoo, who provided the IP address and all other relevant information of a user to the Chinese government. This led to the arrest and imprisonment of a Chinese journalist for 10 years.
Congress has convened with the heads of these companies, but nothing has been done to make them accountable.
They all have defended their actions by stating that they must adhere to the laws of nations in which they operate. However, they are not ignorant or blindly following the law. It all boils down to the profit motive for these companies.
Bynta Ernest is a junior mass communication major from St. Lucia.