posted by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Mar 2010 20:42 UTC
IconIt's been quiet about the Google-China dispute for a while now, but today, the silence was broken by China's minister of Industry and Information Technology, Li Yizhong, who stated that Google must either obey Chinese law or "pay the consequences", leaving no room for a compromise. With more and more western countries building their own internet filters and internet monitoring schemes, it becomes ever harder to make a strong fist against China.

"If you want to do something that disobeys Chinese law and regulations, you are unfriendly, you are irresponsible and you will have to pay the consequences," said Li Yizhong about Google, "Whether they leave or not is up to them. But if they leave, China's Internet market is still going to develop."

We here in the west cry foul over China's internet censoring and monitoring practices, but fact of the matter is that several western countries, like Australia and New Zealand, have already set up their own internet filters. In addition, initiatives like ACTA show that there is a strong push by content providers and some governments alike that would lead to massive monitoring of all internet activity in search for copyright infringement.

All these concessions we in the west are making to privacy and individual freedom means that it becomes ever harder for us to judge China harshly while keeping a straight face. People who support internet filters and monitoring should have no qualms about China's censorship, since it all amounts to the same thing: governments trying to restrict access to what they deem inappropriate content.

China looks at all this from a stability angle. "If there is information that harms stability or the people, of course we will have to block it," Li Yizhong said. It's easy to slightly amend that sentence so that it becomes fitting here in the west: "If there is information that harms profitability or the corporations, of course we will have to block it."

No, China is no longer unique when it comes to internet filters. They are being setup in our very own so-called free democracies as well. See, China can do more than copying - they can be innovative too.

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