Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Chinese Censorship

Rebecca MacKinnon has the story on how AOL is refusing to collaborate on blocking freedom in China, in “Internet Censorship & Corporate Choices.” Companies do have a choice, and the choices they make matter a great deal. Security technologies that help protect people from their governments are not yet internationalized and easy to use. So many Chinese are quite practically constrained by the choices that companies like Yahoo! make.

Kudos to AOL Chairman Richard Parsons for saying:

Time Warner thought about “what we would look like here in the U.S. if we agreed to a governmentally imposed regime where words like democracy had to be blocked,” Parsons said. “We made a judgment that it wasn’t a market that we wanted to enter in this way at this time.”

If more companies made that choice, Chinese censors would be more constrained in their actions. Corporate costs would be lower, and profits higher. There’s some game theory here: When a few companies defect, they will do well, but all would do better by cooperating and supporting freedom.

One comment on "Chinese Censorship"

  • allan says:

    It’s an unfortunate bit of conventional wisdom that no one will pay for explicit security in a system–security is supposed to be a secondary feature. It would be rather annoying if the converse was true for oppressive regimes, with (normatively) bad security being the primary decision factor.

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