Spreading Censoring Democracy

Seriously, what is up with Microsoft? First they throw gays to the wolves, then we find out makes-me-Ralph Reed is on their payroll, and now they’re voluntarily cooperating with Chinese authorities to censor content, including words such as "freedom," "democracy," "demonstration," "human rights," and "Taiwan independence."

There are, of course, two sides to this:
"If you want to deal with the Chinese, you have to deal with their rules," said William Makower, CEO of Panlogic a marketing consultancy with operations in China.

"It is all very well to have high-minded ideals about how you want the Chinese to behave, but opposing China is going to be counter-productive."

"Microsoft is being pragmatic in its approach," said Mr Makower. "It is not up to it to make political statements."
Well, as we established during Microsoft’s whole legislative debacle in April, corporations, in fact, make political statements by engaging in social activism all the time. Here’s a refresher:
[I]n response to those who suggest that social activism isn’t the responsibility of corporations, I would remind them that any time a corporation (or group of corporations) lobbies Congress for something like deregulation on pollutants or stricter bankruptcy laws, or against family leave or universal healthcare, that is social activism. Corporations are collectively one of the primary social activists in this country; it's just that they tend to be pro-corporate and anti-society. The redistribution of taxation is a primary example of that of which I speak. A century ago, the vast majority of federal taxes were paid by corporations; now the vast majority is paid by individuals. That is a massive societal shift. We didn't lobby for that—corporations did.
Being “pragmatic,” I’ve noticed, is always the explanation when doing the right thing might mean making a little less money.
According to Reporters Without Borders, China is using a system called Night Crawler to patrol web journals and make sure that only registered blogs are published. Unregistered blogs will be shut down.

"Following Yahoo, here is a second American internet giant giving way to the Chinese authorities and agreeing to self-censorship", said the group in a statement.

"The lack of ethics on the part of these companies is extremely worrying. Their management frequently justifies collaboration with Chinese censorship by saying that all they are doing is obeying local legislation."

"We believe that this argument does not hold water and that these multinationals must respect certain basic ethical principles, in whatever country they are operating."
It’s truly pathetic that’s considered a radical notion. I guess I’m a radical after all.

But then again, what would I know? I do this for free and can barely pay my bills. If I were a major for-profit international corporation, or perhaps even if I made my living as a blogger, maybe I wouldn’t have any ethics, either.

(Hat tip to John Howard, who’s got his own commentary on the issue you should check out.)

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