Hillary Clinton to China: Internet Censorship Is an "Information Curtain"

By Andrew Moseman | January 22, 2010 2:02 pm

googlechinaIt’s been little over a week since the beginning of the spat between Google and China over censorship and hacking attacks. But that was more than enough time for the fracas to escalate into international political tensions and name-calling.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined in today. In a wide-ranging speech in Washington, Mrs Clinton said the internet had been a “source of tremendous progress” in China but that any country which restricted free access to information risked “walling themselves off from the progress of the next century” [BBC News]. In taking a foreign policy stand on information freedom, she also singled out other countries that she says harass bloggers or promote censorship and called on other companies to follow Google’s lead in taking a stand against restrictive governments.

“A new information curtain is descending across much of the world,” she said, calling growing Internet curbs the modern equivalent of the Berlin Wall [Reuters].

China, unamused at being called out, shot back. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu this morning warned, “The U.S. side had criticized China’s policies on Internet administration, alluding that China restricts Internet freedom. We firmly oppose such words and deeds, which were against the facts and would harm the China-U.S. relations” [ABC News]. The Chinese government referred to Clinton’s foreign policy stand as “information imperialism,” and called her allegations groundless.

The public strife started last week when Google threatened to pull out of China if the country didn’t change its censorship policies or do something about the China-based attacks against Google and other American tech companies. That was an about-face from 2006, when Google agreed to censorship demands to enter the Chinese market. But Google may not have realized then that the Chinese government would alter the bargain by demanding stricter censorship or blocking other Google services — or that Chinese hackers would launch a widespread, well-orchestrated series of attacks on its computers [Washington Post].

For some observers, Sec. Clinton telling China to tear down this firewall is a struggle that will go far beyond the two nations. This fight is about much more than China vs. the U.S, or even China vs. Google. It is about a future of nation-states, corporations and other nonstate actors struggling to define liberty on the Internet [Forbes].

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Image: Wikimedia Commons / M. Weitzel

MORE ABOUT: China, Google, internet
  • Wendy

    ….Hillary Clinton to China: Internet Censorship Is an “Information Curtain”….. LOL Hillary, I think China is fully aware of that already… That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

  • fatkid

    Then why don’t we televize our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? If we bore witness to the devastation, it could have saved lives or at least offered a realistic depiction of U.S. foreign policiy. Censorship perpetuates regimes here too.

  • Russ

    “Information imperialism” sounds totally awesome. Reminds me of the time Microsoft PR referred to Linux as free like a puppy. I realize they are commenting about the work involved in a puppy, but I think puppy and get images of cuteness.

    And grow up fatkid, I’m sure you’d love to publish the truth about US wars, but geez, if someone did that, they’d be locked up in the gulag and never heard from again.

  • Dr. Experiment

    Anyone criticizing China (or any other country) for wanting to impose Internet censorship should do a simple experiment. Take your child and sit down at your computer. Type “girl” into the Google search engine. Seems harmless, right? Now click on “images” and “safe search – off.” Now click “Search Images.” Hmm? You want your kid seeing this stuff? No? Any smart eight-year-old could figure out this sequence of steps. We live in a society now where any child smarter than a chimp has access to hard core pornography, if they have free access to the Internet. Nice, huh? Oh, but we wouldn’t want to restrict free speech!

  • michel sigouin

    If nobody stands up to China, everyone will regret it someday

  • Brian Too

    There are persistent rumours that there is government level participation in malware on the Internet. The groups behind this activity are well-funded, show some real sophistication, and none of the big players are ever caught. Small fish yes, but the brains and the money behind the malware groups are mysterious and somehow beyond the reach of the law.

    How can this be? Are the law enforcement agencies really this inept and unfunded? Do all those computer security researchers really have no idea what is going on? Or are they being diverted away from useful intelligence programs? It’s not like this problem is new anymore.

  • starch?

    Follow the money. China owns much of our debt- thousands of billions of dollars. That buys a sh#t load of looking the other way. Of course the NSA knows the Chinese playbook, we probably gave them a page or two.

  • http://community.whptv.com/forums/thread/4297353.aspx Rosie

    Just Google “Google Sissies” – first hit. And take a gander over to the right on that Search page at what AdSense makes of it. Hahahaahaha…

  • m

    I wonder why United States blocks access to hundreds or thousands of websites to Cuba, it’s exactly the same censorship, just this time from who thinks that has the rights to write the law.

  • http://community.whptv.com/forums/thread/4297353.aspx Rosie

    Hey, thought for the day – imagine how different life in the US would be today if Elin was married to Bill, and Hillary to Tiger…. wouldn’t even have made a blip on the PGA radar. Hate to think about Bill, though….

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