Censorship at the Internet Governance Forum

It’s no secret that some governments like to censor search results, arrest bloggers and monitor email communication and no country does this more than China.

Amnesty has accused some of the world’s largest IT companies – including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Cisco Systems – of selling technology to China to aid filtering and censorship.

Censorship was discussed at the rather posh-sounding Internet Governance Forum,  which closes today in Athens. For those who have got two hours to spare, you can read the raw transcript here.

Here is a summary – in quote form:

Fred Tipson, spokesman for Microsoft, on China:

"We have to decide if the persecuting of bloggers reaches a point that it’s unacceptable to do business there. We try to define those levels and the trends are not good there at the moment."

Cisco Systems spokesman on the selling of filtering content to the Chinese government:

"We are selling the same product in every country around the world.  So we are not colluding with any government to do anything customised to meet any special need with regard to filtering."

Question to the Cisco man from the floor:

"Isn’t it a problem to sell equipment to the Chinese police?  Because you must know what the Chinese regime is and you must know how they are going to use your software."

Richard Sambrook, director of news, BBC:

"The BBC’s web sites in China and Iran and a number of other countries are blocked because we refuse  to compromises on our reporting. If we agreed not to report issues
around the Falun Gong and Tibet and so on, we can probably get our Web site in
China unblocked. But I think the principle of freedom of expression would be
too severely compromised."

Vint Cerf, "father" of the Internet (he invented it!):

"In the end, we concluded that we would prefer to provide as much information to
the Chinese people as we could through the Google search engines, in spite of
the fact that we also are self-censoring material which the China government
tells us we are not to exhibit."

Liu Zhengrong, government official (see BBC News story)

"It is unfair and smacks of double standards when (foreigners) criticise China for deleting illegal and harmful messages…No one in China has been arrested simply because he or she said something on the Internet "

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