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Thursday, January 05, 2006

If Microsoft Helps Suppress Dissenters in China, Would Gates' Colossus Do It Here, Too?

Rebecca McKinnon lays out the stark implications of Microsoft's decision to comply with demands from the Chinese government for assistance in identifying and silencing dissidents with blogs:

"This issue goes far beyond China. The behavior of companies like Microsoft, Yahoo! and others - and their eager willingness to comply with Chinese government demands - shows a fundamental lack of respect for users and our fundamental human rights. Globally.
"Microsoft, Yahoo! and others are helping to institutionalize and legitimize the integration of censorship into the global IT business model.
"Do not count on these companies to protect your human rights, if those rights are threatened by the over-stretching hand of any government anywhere on the planet.
"If these American technology companies have so few moral qualms about giving in to Chinese government demands to hand over Chinese user data or censor Chinese people's content, can we be sure they won't do the same thing in response to potentially illegal demands by an
over-zealous government agency in our own country?
"Can we trust that they're not already doing so?"

Microsoft's work for the Chinese government illustrates the vital importance of a timeless truth of political philosphy that is is central to the conservative perspective - as government grows, so grows it's capacity and opportunities to compel conduct regardless of the moral, religious, political or economic principles or beliefs of the individual.

Rebecca has links to an official statement from Microsoft that defends the company's actions in this controversy, as well as links to posts by bloggers working in the company. They are also speaking in defense of the company's actions.

By the way, has anybody asked the folks at Linux how they would react if presented with similar demands by the Chinese or another dictatorial or authoritarian regime?