Could podcasting get content through the Great Firewall of China?

I wrote a couple of pieces last week about Google’s Internet censorship in China and the debate continues this week.

The four largest American companies who are actively helping the Chinese government censor the Internet are Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Cisco Systems. These four companies have been invited to a U.S. congressional subcommittee hearing on February 15 on the subject of U.S. Internet firms operating procedures in China.

The ‘fab four’ failed to turn up for a hearing this Wednesday are were roundly berated by Tom Lantos, D.-Calif., one of the caucus leaders:

Companies that have blossomed in this country and make billions, a country that reveres freedom of speech, have chosen to ignore that core value in expanding their reach overseas, and to erect a ‘Great Firewall’ to suit Beijing’s purposes,” he said. “These massively successful high-tech companies, which couldn’t bring themselves to send their representatives to this meeting today, should be ashamed. With all their power and influence, wealth and high visibility, they neglected to commit to the kind of positive action that human rights activists in China take every day. They caved in to Beijing’s demands for the sake of profits, or whatever else they choose to call it.

It is thought they will attend the Feb 15th hearing!

I note see now that the BBC are reporting that MSN is considering changing its censorship policies:

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s senior lawyer, said it would now remove blog entries only if it gets a “legally binding notice” from the government of that nation…. He added that only people in the nation where the entry breaks local laws will be blocked from seeing the controversial comments. In all other nations access to the entry will be unrestricted.

This is a marginal improvement over MSN’s existing policy of deleting accounts of people who wrote about ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, or ‘demonstration’ but it is still shoring up the ‘great firewall‘ of China.

Interestingly, Reuters is reporting that Bill Gates has come out against censorship today:

The spread of private e-mail means online users could distribute banned news despite government injunctions, he told a news conference.

“You may be able to take a very visible Web site and say that something shouldn’t be there, but if there’s a desire by the population to know something, it’s going to get out,” he said.

However, Gates said Microsoft, the world’s biggest computer software company, had to meet legal requirements of the countries where it does business.

I have spoken to several representatives of search engines recently and they have all told me that search engines are not indexing the audio content of podcasts and don’t have technologies to do so right now.

I wonder, if podcasts are more difficult to index, is there a role for podcasts to get content through the Great Firewall?

3 thoughts on “Could podcasting get content through the Great Firewall of China?”

  1. I agree with Bill Gates, in that savvy computer users have and always will find ways to circumvent measures taken to control how they use programs or the internet. We call it software piracy. Unfortunately, not enough attention is being paid to this matter. People rightly complain about the US government (and are heard too) for their human rights abuses and the flimsy argument they used to wage war on Iraq, and that is a testament to how free western society is. The level of criticism directed at the Chinese regime, is negligible, because of the complete control China has on information going in and out of the country. There is a theory known as The Paradox of the Fisks: which says that The most criticised societies in the world will be the least criminal societies, and conversely the least criticised will be the most totalitarian as a closed society does not allow criticism of itself. It’s not up to Microsoft to bring free speech to China. It is an issue that transcends the technological world. One government vs. 1.3 billion chinese people -> you do the math

  2. As much as something may be blocked there will always be a way around it. When there is a will there is a way.

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