From Human Rights Watch, excerpt:
(Washington, DC) Senior Microsoft officials appear to be downplaying online censorship by the Chinese authorities, Human Rights Watch said today.
Recent public statements by Steve Ballmer, the chief executive officer of Microsoft, and Bill Gates, the company’s chairman and co-founder, appear to contradict the company’s official statement of opposition to such censorship and minimize or even support online censorship in China.
“Microsoft is on the wrong side of this issue,” said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director for Human Rights Watch. “Just as the US government and a company like Google are starting to push back against censorship, Ballmer and Gates seem to be going the other way. Unless Microsoft clarifies its position, the Chinese government and others will take great comfort in how easy it is for them to divide and co-opt opponents of censorship.”
On January 21, The Wall Street Journal reported that Ballmer told an oil industry conference that, “you have to respect sovereign nations to make that decision [to censor].”
On January 25, Bill Gates reinforced that view and said in an ABC interview that, “The role of the Internet in every country has been very positive, letting people speak out in new ways…[a]nd fortunately the Chinese efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited…it is easy to go around it.” Gates also noted that different countries have different laws on censorship and said that “you have got to decide do you want to obey the laws of the countries you are in or not. If not, you may not end up doing business there.”
China, a country with more than 300 million internet users, devotes enormous resources to support an extensive online censorship regime that includes sophisticated government firewalls and filtering in conjunction with self-censorship by companies who operate search engines, blogs, or other online media.
Thank goodness for Ubuntu.