Wednesday, January 13, 2010

China faces serious degradation of its Internet effectiveness because of its bullheaded government


Media outlets brim with the story that Google is threatening to pull its “.cn” search engine out of China as well as its workers in China, after hackers attempted to garner information from gmail, apparently to track down pro-Tibet or other political activists, or to seek defense secrets from a number of other American technology companies at the same time. It is also stopping its self-censorship of material returned at its .cn site.

Bloomberg has a lead story here, by Brian Womack, Ari Levy and Mark Lee, up to Update 4, link.

The Washington Post has a front page print story by Ellen Nakashima, Steven Mufson, and John Pomfret, on Wednesday Jan. 13. An interesting tidbit is that the attacks seem to be launched from Taiwan, which was in a serious dispute with mainland in the first months of the Bush administration, long before 9/11. Steve Mufson has a later article “China faces backlash from ‘netizens’ if Google leaves,” link here. The company’s chief legal officer has a statement ("A New Approach to China") on Google’s official blog here. The post reinforces advice to home users to be careful on the Web and use anti-virus software.

The New York Times has analysis by David Barboza, to the effect that Chinese internet business could be devastated, as users would be left to depend on an inferior search engine Baidu, link here.

ITNNews has a YouTube entry.
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Authoritarian governments try to suppress information that they believe would "undermine" social order, but technology can simply overrun them. But there are serious international problems. If China believes that American tech companies are pulling the plug because of its restrictive policies (or because of encouraging security threats, as here), China could decide to play hardball in financial markets and call in loans. It might think it has little to lose.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Beijing smog here

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