Thursday, April 1, 2010

Imagine Being Censored - The Frustration

I guess the biggest feeling I'll have is frustration should anything on the Internet be censored?  That's what the good citizenry of China, Iran, and other less than free societies are going through these days.

In China, there is the practice of self-censorship where the companies police themselves and citizens are encourage to watch one another. It's 2010 but I think if I were in any of these countries, it'll feel rather like 1984.

Now, I want to note the difference between the government from the people. I also want to note the circumstances. Whether you're reading this from the comfortable of a cafe on the streets of France or Italy, Starbucks in downtown Chicago, or from Barnes & Noble in West LA, we cannot possibly know how we react if our governments suddenly decree what we can or cannot know about the world.

I've spoken and debated to a few smart folks about this. I hope you don't see this as American arrogance. I'm just as average as you can go and as far as smarts go. But I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone in China or Iran. Knowing even just a fraction of what the world is about. And yet, there is a fortress built by the government.

The gatekeepers there tell us that we are safe within these walls. That order must be maintained. Safety from what? Order for who? Imagine the frustration of knowing that there is so much more beyond the walls of the fortress. That the purpose isn't to keep out a horde of disruptive social ideals but to keep the mass within the fortress from venturing out, seeking knowledge and, for better or worse, learning about the world.

It has been the long standing policy of the United States foreign policy towards China as one of engagement. China has come a long way since Deng Xiaoping but, suddenly, flushed with cash and growing economic and political might, Beijing has decide that it has gone far enough.

Hooray for Google for standing up to old guards in the Chinese Politburo, its many censor apparatuses, and against those who manned the towers of Great Firewall of China. Whether you think Google has done this for the sake of "doing no evil" (I can argue that Google hasn't been completely faithful to that mantra) or because its search business in China has hit a wall against incumbent Baidu, Google has started something that I hope many governments and foreign companies will follow and finish.

Note: I rather be talking about the iPad and its potential impact on mobile computing, Verizon and Google teaming up against minimal government interference, or LTE deployment, but censorship affects all of us no matter where we live.

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