Thursday, March 11, 2010

Updates: Google vs China and Glenn Beck vs The Poor

Small updates on these two stories have given me a chance to debut our new Train Truncation Tool, so click below to read on.

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1. All is still quiet with Google. They've been meeting repeatedly with Chinese officials, and have continuously restated that they aren't willing to operate in China unless censorship rules change. I suspect the fact that neither side has walked off yet means that Beijing is studying the feasibility of allowing Google to display uncensored results, but then blocking individual pages from the results themselves. Or maybe they've gone mad and they're going to allow unfettered access to information even though it's a certain step towards the end of one-party rule. I think we'll hear one way or the other before too long.

In the meantime, Google executives have been in front of Congress, leading to this exchange earlier this week:
Lawmakers took turns sharply criticizing China and Iran at the hearing for efforts to censor Internet communications and crack down on democratic activists -- but Google and rival Microsoft also drew a few barbs.

Republican Representative Chris Smith pointed to a Forbes magazine report quoting Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer as saying Google was acting irrationally and vowing to censor search results if instructed to do so.

"If the Chinese government gives us proper legal notice, we'll take that piece of information out of the Bing search engine," the magazine quoted Ballmer as telling oil company executives in Texas in January.

"Frankly, I find that outrageous," said Smith, who called "unconscionable" Ballmer's reported description of the US commitment to freedom of speech as "extreme."

"We are frankly very puzzled by the comments," said Wong, adding the remarks were "not consistent" with Microsoft's position as part of the industry's Global Network Initiative push for human rights worldwide.

"Certainly we would never minimize the human rights impact of censorship in China or any other country," said Wong.
Certain a touch of hypocrisy given that they would still be censoring results right now if it weren't for the hacking incident, but what the hell: their rivals deserve to be shamed as much as possible. Microsoft seems unwilling to budge, Yahoo has taken an active roll in helping China find and arrest dissidents in the past, and Apple obeys Chinese censorship laws despite having used the Dalai Lama in an (American) ad campaign. Perhaps peer pressure and scorn from Washington can change their positions- otherwise we just have to hope the proposed legislation keeps moving forward.

2. Attacking churches seemed like a pretty odd thing for Glenn Beck to try, and the backlash is already forming:
Beck's condemnations aren't going over well in some faith communities. The Rev. Jim Wallis, a prominent evangelical figure and president of the Sojourners network, argued yesterday, "I don't know if Beck is just strange, just trying to be controversial, or just trying to make money. But in any case, what he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show."
Hopefully he won't be the last to issue a statement like that.

5 comments:

  1. Glen Beck: no matter how you cut it, more evidence that god is dead.

    My general feeling is Apple over Microsoft and Google over Apple. Though they're all weird tyrants, dissemination of information through tight new technologies is in Google's interest in ways that it isn't in Apple's or Microsoft's.

    But seriously, what the fuck was a senior Microsoft representative doing insulting the US's stance on freedom of information? Even if it's true, why in god's name would you say it out loud???

    And hell yeah about Truncation on the Train! I will use this all the time for my probably-way-too-long-for-blogs posts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. But seriously, what the fuck was a senior Microsoft representative doing insulting the US's stance on freedom of information?

    Yeah that part is really mysterious- especially considering that there's a quickly-growing consensus that playing along with governments like chinas isn't ok. it's not a popular stance, it's not an ethical stance, and it may not be legal for long.

    Re: truncation- i put instructions on truncating stuff in an unpublished post, you should be able to read it. right now its a bit harder than it should be, we may have to mess around with the html a bit to get everything working.

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