Monday, February 20, 2006

money or values?

I recently read an article about Yahoo, Google, Cisco, and Microsoft, and their business in China. Congress called their actions despicable because they are complying with their laws and allowing information to be blocked and censored. The companies are all trying to get a hold in China because it is an "internet gold mine" and they could get a lot of business and money from them. But they have to comply with the Chinese laws to be able to stay there...which means censorship. So here is the question.....

Do they stay out of China because it goes against the U.S. values of the free flow of information? Or do they try to stay because it is good for business?

It seems like an easy answer, but as a leader in that company, would it really be that easy? They could make a lot of money in China.

In my opinion, those companies make enough money without China. They aren't going to go under if they don't have that business. So even though they may not get as much money as they would like, is it really worth giving up something that is suppposed to be so highly valued in our country?

what do you think?

1 comment:

Nancy Williams said...

This piece from the Miami Herald seems to go along with your question, Kat. This happened here in the USA on Feb. 9 -- NOT in China.

More security is no substitute for less freedom


The enemies of freedom will be defeated. -- President George W. Bush, 2005

We have met the enemy and he is us.
-- Pogo, 1971

The following happened in the United States of America on Feb. 9 of this year.

The scene is the Little Falls branch of the Montgomery County Public Library in Bethesda, Md. Business is going on as usual when two men in uniform stride into the main reading room and call for attention. Then they make an announcement: It is forbidden to use the library's computers to view Internet pornography.

As people are absorbing this, one of the men challenges a patron about a website he is visiting and asks the man to step outside. At this point, a librarian intervenes and calls the uniformed men aside. A police officer is summoned. The men leave. It turns out they are employees of the county's department of Homeland Security and were operating way outside their authority.

We are indebted to reporter Cameron W. Barr of The Washington Post for the account of this incident, which, I feel constrained to repeat, did not happen in China, Cuba or North Korea. Rather, it happened a few days ago in this country. Right here in freedom's land.

There are those of us who'd say the country has become less deserving of that sobriquet in recent years. They would point as evidence to the detention of U.S. citizens without charges, counsel or recourse, to laws empowering the government to check up on what you've been reading, to revelations of illegal eavesdropping.

And there are others who'd say, ''So what?'' They're in the 51 percent, according to a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, who say we should be ready give up our freedoms in exchange for security. Apparently, they are ignorant of what Benjamin Franklin said: ``They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.''

Apparently, they're also unversed in something candidate Bush said in 1999: ''There ought to be limits to freedom.'' Mind you, this nugget of wisdom wasn't dropped in a discussion of national security. Rather, it was the future president's reaction to a website that made fun of him.

Seven years later, he's clearly getting his wish. It chills me to know that doesn't chill more of us.

Indeed, of all the many things I cannot fathom about certain of my countrymen and women, their ability to be sanguine at the threatened abrogation of their rights is very near the top.

The only way I can explain it is that freedom -- the right to do, say, think, go, live as you please -- is so ingrained in our psyche, has been such a part of us for so long, that some are literally unable to imagine life without it. They seem fundamentally unable to visualize how drastically things would change without these freedoms they treat so cavalierly, what it would be like to need government approval to use the Internet, buy a firearm, take a trip, watch a movie or read these very words.

If that sounds alarmist, consider again the experience at Little Falls, where an agent of the government literally read over a man's shoulder, Big Brother-like, and tried to prevent him from seeing what he had chosen to see.

I'm sorry, but the fact that we are at war doesn't make that OK. The fact that we are panicked doesn't make it OK. The allegation that the material is unsavory doesn't make it OK.

Look, freedom is a messy business. It is also a risky business. But it means nothing if we surrender it at every hint of messiness and risk. That's cowardly and it's un-American.

You'd think we'd have learned that lesson after the Sedition Act of 1918, the excesses of Joseph McCarthy, the surveillance of Martin Luther King. But apparently the lesson requires constant re-learning. And vigilance.

So thank you to the Little Falls library for having the guts to say, hell no.

Some things should never happen in freedom's land.