There was a time when American capitalists would have strongly protested totalitarian censorship, but that was before they became complicit in it. Moral indignation once again loses out to global profits.
In the case of the Green Dam Youth Escort software, China again seeks to co-opt American companies into its oppressive censorship schemes.
China is requiring that all PCs shipped inside the country after July 1 include the software, officially touted as a porn filter but which has been demonstrated to be a political content filter, as well. The software blocks content, records passwords, detects apps that might circumvent China’s pervasive firewall, and takes screenshots of users’ computers.
American companies, including giants such as Dell and HP, will be required to include the software with all their computers sold in China.
This gives the hardware companies the same option China has previously offered Yahoo and Google: Do as the Communist bosses demand or risk being locked out of one of the world’s fastest-growing markets, not to mention manufacturing sites for PCs that American companies sell around the globe.
China’s continued–and expanding–censorship of the information available to its citizens should be unacceptable to freedom-loving people everywhere, as it is to those in China whose protests already forced a change in how Green Dam is implemented.
Amid expanding criticism–itself a hopeful sign–the bosses in Beijing have seemingly backed down: What had been compulsory use of Green Dam now appears to be optional. What actually happens in cities and provinces remains to be seen.
But, where were the American hardware companies, speaking out for their customers’ freedom? If they spoke a word against being forced to include the software, my Google searches missed it. The best I found was a Dell spokesman saying they were “reviewing” the issue.
Green Dam, which apparently includes pirated American code, is as much a violation of human rights as any other part of China’s “Great Firewall.” That American companies lacked the guts to stand up to China’s authoritarian regime is only another indication of the U.S.’s badly diminished global standing.
That U.S.-based PC makers will apparently participate in such censorship without protest shows they will do anything for a buck. And that capitalism can sometimes be almost as corrupt as the totalitarianism it used to fight.
When the Chinese people show themselves to love freedom more than American CEOs, there clearly is a problem. And it isn’t in China.
David Coursey supports freedom of expression and information. He tweets as techinciter and can be e-mailed from his Web site, www.coursey.com/contact.