Internet Censorship: Learning from Google / China Confrontation

In the ongoing online battle in regards to the proposed, anti-democratic “filtering” of the internet in this country, it is important that the powers that be – in this case Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – listen to the important lessons that are bound come from the current stance taken by Google in China. In a nutshell, Google – the undisputed kings and queens of the internet – have stepped up to the Chinese government and challenged them in relation to the censorship of the internet in that country.

When Google first went into China, it was roundly criticised for bowing to the demands of the Chinese regime to ensure that the results the Google search engine returned complied with the censorship policies of the regime. If you choose to do business in any country, you have to abide by the laws appropriate to that business, in that country. Google choosing to do business in China was/is a tacit agreement to follow those censorship constraints. In that sense, Google did no wrong – they wanted to do business in China, so had to play the game Chinese-style. That was their call, and despite the criticism of bowing to Chinese demands for the sake of the business, Google have been very successful there.

However, a recent wave of hacking against the services of Google – (and other companies) – from inside China, and apparently for purposes that are likely to only have been in the interest of the Chinese government – Google has challenged China by “unfiltering” the results presented by Google’s search engine in China.

For the first time, people in China have seen pictures of the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 – an event the Chinese government refuses to acknowledge even occurred. In taking this stance, Google have stated that they will no longer accept the filtering restrictions placed upon them in China, or they will choose to no longer do business in China – costing many jobs, and creating another public relations disaster for the Chinese regime.

Let’s cast our minds back a couple of years to 2008, and the Beijing Olympics. Kevin Rudd – amongst other political leaders from around the world – roundly criticised the Chinese government for its filtering/censorship of the internet:

It really pisses me off that “Kevin747” has the audacity to jump on the bandwagon at that time for some cheap political points, yet behind the scenes he and Senator Conroy were plotting to do the same in Australia. Certainly, Australia does not seem likely to filter to the extent that China does, but that remains to be seen. The process is too hidden, and too mysterious, and we are not allowed to see what is on/will be on the official blacklist in this country. Of the censorship policies of the Chinese government, Kevin said: “I’m quite concerned by them.”

It is interesting that the following article was published just a few days BEFORE the previous article highlighted above, in which Kevin Rudd was so critical of China:

Smelling the hypocritical double-standard here yet? A few days later we saw this:

I hope Messrs Rudd and Conroy are paying attention, because I can guarantee them that the world is watching us – very, very closely. Google (and other global companies) has a large presence in this country. Google are taking a massive stance against China. Will Australia be next?