Emerging markets and censorship.

Microsoft follows Yahoo, bows to censorship pressure from China.

It’s a big topic, this, so I think this one gets a post to itself, because I honestly don’t know what I think. I was faintly admiring of a friend (the same one I stole this link off) when he stopped using any yahoo-provided service in the wake of their own caving. I didn’t, because they owned flickr (and now del.icio.us, and upcoming.org) as well this mailing lists, and it would just have been too much hassle to quit using theri stuff. Also, I have friends who work for Yahoo, and I have intention of stopping talking to them.

Microsoft, of course, represents another, even bigger hassle to quit, and I’m not going to do that, either. But is quitting using these companies’ products the answer? There’s the saw about how trade with China will eventualyl improve human rights/democracy over there, as they’re forced/encouraged to become more and more a part of the same world as the rest of us. There’s the flipside of that, that they’re going to do shitty things, no matter what we do, so we might as well conduct trade with them anyway. (Yes, it’s true, eveything I know about international affairs, I learned from The West Wing.)

Clearly, Yahoo and MS have bought one or the other of those lines. It’s not hard to see why: even if everyone were to suddenly stop using MS and Yahoo, and they were to stop going along with China, would it make any difference inside China? Almost certainly not. And so it’s easy to excuse ourselves.

Except of course for Burke’s maxim. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. Surely, regardless of whether or not it’ll make a difference, there’s a moral imperative to stand up and register your dissenting opinion? And doesn’t the internet make it really easy to do just that?

Or does it actaully make it harder, as the technologies we use on it are increasingly owned by the same small group of companies?

This entry was originally published at my workblog.

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