Tibet Will Be Free (the SFT Blog!)

WELCOME TO THE STUDENTS FOR A FREE TIBET BLOG--------> This is the weblog of the SFT Headquarters. Here you can peek into the minds (not to mention actions, events, trainings, brainstorms, parties...) of the SFT staff, board members, volunteers, friends and fellow activists. Tibet will be free.

We've Moved:

Tibet Will Be Free has moved off of this site because Blogger is owned by Google. Visit the new TIBET WILL BE FREE at blog.studentsforafreetibet.org

Friday, February 10, 2006

This Blog Is Dead! Long Live the New Blog!

This incarnation of Tibet Will Be Free is dead. Blogger is owned by Google and SFT is not going to rely on Google's cheating heart any more. Have no fear, good people, for our new version of TIBET WILL BE FREE is younger, smarter, and better looking than this site.

For updates on the actions, activities, ideas, and events surrounding Student's for a Free Tibet's international headquarters, board, staff, friends, and volunteers visit http://blog.studentsforafreetibet.org. The site is on WordPress, which rocks.

Until Tibet is free...Long live the SFT Blog!

New Google Break Up Video!

Check out the latest Google break up video and make sure you pass it around!


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yahoo Helped China Jail Another Democracy Advocate

Yahoo provided information to the Chinese government that helped them jail Li Zhi, a democracy advocate. Li was given an eight-year sentence in 2003 for subverting the state power and inciting subversion, which is the shocking crime of trying to join the Chinese Democratic Party. Li had also been critical of the corruption of local government officials in online discussion groups. Li was convicted on the basis of information Yahoo provided about his email account and Yahoo user name activity. Yahoo had recently provided the Chinese government with information that was used to put journalist Shi Tao in jail for ten years.

Students for a Free Tibet has already launch an online action campaign calling for Yahoo, Microsoft, and Cisco to end their partnership with the Chinese government. SFT is also leading the way in opposing Google's partnership in censorship with the Chinese government through NoLuv4Google; click here to tell Google to stop helping the Chinese government block access to information about Tibet, human rights, and other important topics.

Yahoo said this in an email to an SFT supporter who'd expressed her outrage over their censorship of information and role as an informant on journalists:
We are proud of our role in expanding opportunities for Chinese citizens to enjoy the significant benefits of the Internet. Yahoo! Search gives Chinese users an ability to access various independent, non-government sponsored sources of information of interest to them, fostering a more outward-looking population.

[...]

We balance the requirement to comply with laws that are not necessarily consistent with our own values against our strong belief that active involvement in China contributes to the continued modernization of the country - as well as a benefit to Chinese citizens - through the advancement of communications, commerce and access to information. The Internet is a positive force in China and a growing Chinese middle class is benefiting greatly from more education, communication, technology, and independent sources of information.
Their response would be laughable, were it not so reprehensible. Both the Li and Shi cases show that Chinese users of Yahoo can expect to have their search records and emails turned over to the government at the drop of a hat. Whatever information they are able to access may soon be grounds for arrest and imprisonment. Yahoo's caveat emptor seems to be that it is the users fault if they take the dangerous step of using their services when trying to promote the truth and democracy in a totalitarian regime. Yahoo has reserved no rights to protect privacy in a country with a government that doesn't want it's people to have access to information that might threaten their control. What's more, progress for the people of Tibet and China is irreparably damaged every time a blogger, journalist, or activist advocating democracy is tossed in jail on meaningless charges. Look at the evidence that convicted Li Zhi:
According to this defense statement, Li Zhi has been charged with the criminal act of "attempting to overthrow the socialist system," on the basis of three points: 1. Applying three times to an overseas hostile organization in order to join the China Democracy Party and receiving an appointment; 2. Establishing a personal web page at Muzi web site, propagandizing hostile thoughts; 3. Inciting others to join the China Democracy Party.

The fourth section of the defense statement challenges the criminal evidence presented by the government, including the part mentioning that Yahoo Hong Kong Ltd provided evidence, as follows:

“ (2) On August 1, 2003, Yahoo Hong Kong Ltd provided to the public security agency Proof of the User's Information, 'provided relevant information about user lizhi340100,' and also explained 'for more detailed information, see attached documents. The Attached documents include the user's registered information and email from that account.' Therefore the part that can be considered evidence is the content of that attachment. But the attachment was not provided to the court. According to Yahoo's explanation, the content of the attachments not only reflects the situation of the mail exchanges, but also can have the function of “resolving some doubts.” Therefore, we hope the court will review the attachment. We certainly hope the defense lawyers will be allowed to review the documents so we can understand the full situation in order to defend our client. This is a matter of the rights of our client. Please remedy this situation.”
China would not have been able to jail this dissident -- and by dissident I mean a brave person who wants to bring democracy and freedom to China -- without the help of Yahoo. Blogger and internet advocate Rebecca MacKinnon has this to say about Yahoo's now common role as informant for the Chinese government:
A company that cares about human rights should not put user data in jurisdictions where full compliance with the law makes collaboration with human rights violations inevitable. Either they did not think this through before setting up their Chinese e-mail service or they don't care.
I agree. One solution to Yahoo's (and Google, Microsoft and Cisco's) ethics problem would be for the US government to create legislation that would ban US internet companies from handing over their users' records to the Chinese government, especially when it might endanger the user. These companies are well aware of the sites their customers are using -- they store the information, hence China's desire to have access to it -- and should be made to promise that they won't assist the Chinese government in the repression of democracy and freedom. At issue may well be China's requirement that American companies follow their laws, when in fact these censorship and disclosure laws are a real barrier to ethical business inside China.

US companies should not be compelled to give up information that helps the Chinese government imprison dissidents. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco have repeatedly proved that they are incapable of standing by American values while dealing with the Chinese government. They are making a mockery of free speech, free information, and democracy by helping the Chinese government imprison, censor, repress, and propagandize over the internet. If this is what it takes, it's time for these companies to be given the protection of the US government to resist China's calls for private user information.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mikel Dunham Interview

Author and Tibet expert Mikel Dunham was interviewed by Flash, a Japanese magazine. You can read the whole interview on his blog. Here's an excerpt:
What is the one thing that most upsets/angers you about China’s invasion of Tibet?

China’s re-writing of history to support its deplorable Han chauvinism. The tragic story of Tibetan Buddhists taking up arms to defend their nation, their religion, their culture, and above all, their Dalai Lama, may sit uneasily next to the popular Shangri-La image of Tibet, but the myth of a non-violent takeover of Tibet by the Chinese has been advanced by the communist propaganda machine and is still very much working for the Chinese propaganda machine today. That is why it so important to remember the extent to which there was fierce resistance in Tibet: to help dispel the fantasy China has spun about their bloody takeover. 1.2 million Tibetans lost their lives because of Mao’s takeover. To assert that the Tibetans invited the Chinese to take command of their country is a shameless fabrication and rewriting of history that, in spit of its absurdity, still thrives and remains largely unchallenged sixty years after the fact. China lies and my book was written to address those lies.
Mikel's book Buddha's Warriors has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Outrage By the Numbers, Volume II

As of right now 1,022 people have pledged to boycott Google on Valentine's Day through NoLuv4Google. Keep spreading the word!

Additionally, over 42,000 emails have been sent to Google's executives through SFT's Action Network.

Keep spreading the word people! You're making a difference, as we can see with Clusty's announcement of its no-censorship censorship policy. They've shown that they don't want to be on the wrong side of the fight between freedom and tyranny, human rights and oppression.

Clusty's New Censorship Policy

At last, an internet company with a morally sound censorship policy. Clusty has announced that they will not censor search results.
Here's what the actual statement looks like:
The text of Clusty's censorship policy reads:
Neither Clusty.com nor Vivisimo.com censors search results. That is, neither site removes from its output, in an ad-hoc manner, politically-oriented search results that would otherwise appear and that would be objectionable to governments or would be unlawful in unelected, non-democractic regimes.
And here's what the front page looks like:

Lhadon on Public Radio!

Lhadon Tethong, SFT's rockin' Executive Director, was interviewed by Jon Gordon of Future Tense on American Public Radio on our NoLuv4Google Valentine's Day boycott. The show is widely syndicated, including on the Canada Broadcasting Corporation, and an SFT supporter in England heard it broadcast on the BBC.

Click here to listen to Lhadon's interview online. It's about three minutes long.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Questions For Google About Its China Partnership

Becky Hogge of OpenDemocracy.net asks important questions about Google's deal with China. While there has been much talk about what Google is doing for China by censoring search results, there hasn't been much about the broader picture of this partnership. What happens when a ubiquitous search engine that stores data from millions of user searches a day opens a service inside a totalitarian regime with a thirst to know what every one of its citizens is doing at all times? What steps does Google take to protect the information on the location and identities of users inside China who search for "politically sensitive" censored terms?
As Andrew Brown recently reported on openDemocracy, Google collects mountains of IP-address-linked data about the search behaviour of all its customers. The more services you sign up for with Google (Gmail, Desktop, Homepage) the more Google knows about you, knowledge that it shares with third parties, for example, to make better-targeted ads. This is its core business model, and the reason why small ads are so successful. To keep our information flowing into the Googleplex, Google relies on a high level of either ignorance or (one hopes, more likely) trust from its users.
[...]
But what Google's privacy policy actually states is that "Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google [if, among other things] we have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request."
[...]
So our next question should be, how much data are you logging about your new Chinese customers, Google? And what will you do when the Chinese authorities ask you to hand it over? In fact, this question has already been put privately to a senior contact at Google by British web commentator Bill Thompson, who is awaiting a response.
[...]

One clue might lie in the feature of google.cn that sets it apart from the other global search providers, like MSN and Yahoo!, operating inside China. This feature – much lauded in the official statements given by Google on the day of the launch – is that google.cn tells its customers when their search results have been "filtered". How Google got that concession from the Chinese authorities might go some way to explaining why it took so long to release google.cn. But the question then has to be, what did Google offer in return?

China has plenty of technical know-how of its own, and is clearly prepared to use the network for its own ends. The Chinese authorities currently stand accused of endorsing attempts to hack into British and US government files, in what the UK Guardian called "a massive hit and run raid on the world's intellectual property to aid their booming economic growth". This heightens suspicions that denial-of-service attacks on Japanese websites, such as the official website of the controversial Yasukuni shrine, emanate from China and have the tacit approval of the Chinese authorities. China's censorship machinery goes far beyond the well-documented 50,000 officials and volunteers that watch the web to censor content, and incorporates choke points in the communications network that allow data to be filtered packet by packet.

Back in May last year, I asked this question: "If these two experts in internet traffic – Google in cataloguing it and China in censoring it – start working together, what can we expect?" The time for an answer approaches. In the meantime, we need to make sure we're asking the grown-up questions – about privacy, about data retention, about aspects of the deal Google have struck with the Chinese authorities that aren't hitting the headlines, and about the activities that will take place in Google's new research and development lab in China. And we need to ask them not just for the sake of the people of China, but for the sake of the internet as a safe space for free speech across the world.

Google must begin to answer these questions, especially if they expect us to believe their statements about commitment to the free access to information. Where does their data go? Do Chinese officials ever ask for and/or receive access to Google.cn's search logs, including IP addresses and private personal information? What level of disclosure does Google feel it is obligated to heed if and when the Chinese government requests information? Does Google feel it is obligated to inform Google.cn users when they release information to the Chinese government or any other government?

No Witness to a Free Media in China

Cam MacMurchy, a Canadian journalist living in Beijing, has an incredible article in the Victoria Times - Colonist (subscription link) on the state of the press inside China. Here are some excerpts:
The announcement that Google was joining search engine MSN in voluntarily filtering search results in China was met with derision among foreigners here — at least, when we actually got some details of the announcement.

You see, the BBC threw up a graphic saying GOOGLE GAGGED and then cut to a com¬puter screen with somebody typing in “dalai la. . .“ and then the screen went black. How ironic that a story about censorship is cen¬sored.

As Orwellian as that might seem, it happens all the time. If CNN or the BBC talk about the Dalai Lama, Taiwan independence or human rights, one of the thousands of Communist television censors flips the switch and the broadcast shuts down. Usually the story will come back on during the reporter’s signoff.

Of course, the stories blocked by the government are the ones of most interest, especially to foreigners. We’ve grown up in countries where the press is free, where information is always available, where people are allowed to challenge authorities, where people can have differing opinions. And never have I valued that more than now.

One of my good Australian friends, who worked here in state-run media, one day had enough of parroting the government’s line. He went into the director’s office, sat down, and said:“There’s no journalism in China.”. Needless to say, an argument erupted, and he’s no longer employed in the country. But his case was solid: Part of a journalist’s job is to hold those in authority to account, especially governments. And here, that simply doesn’t happen.

Xinhua, the wire service in China, recently released a refresher for journalists on how they should conduct themselves: “Through persistent ideological and political education as well as education in professional ethics, we must help the broad ranks of journalistic workers firmly establish Marxist views on news, vigorously promote the party’s fine tradition in journalistic work, strictly observe discipline in journalistic work and standards of professional ethics, and consciously build a ‘fence’ to keep out false news.”
[...]
Our only saving grace is the knowledge that at least our home countries are free, and that sometimes, we can get on un-blocked western websites to read about what’s really going on.

We tout the merits and talk glowingly about freedom of the press to our Chinese friends and colleagues, but after more than 55 years of spoon-fed propaganda, the Chinese don’t really seem to understand.

One friend wrote an article about the Olympic Games in Beijing for a local daily. She interviewed poorer residents, who were about split 50-50 on whether the Olympics Will benefit the city. She wrote the article and had it rejected by her newspaper, and was then told her Communist party membership application would be put on hold as a result. She told me surely Vancouver media aren’t allowed to write anything negative about the 2010 Games, either.

Many Chinese are aware that the radio stations, newspapers and television shows are filled with propaganda but believe somehow that western governments do the same. If I can question the truthfulness of a Xinhua article, then they can question the CBC. After living in an isolated state for so long, nobody here is really sure what a free press is. And that’s dangerous.

So it’s sad when a western company — a company that made its fortune in a free, democratic and innovation-oriented society — decides to team up with the Chinese government to thwart those same values for hundreds of millions of people.

And to be fair, Google isn’t the first and won’t be the last company to work in concert with China’s government. Microsoft has already launched its censored version of MSN search, Yahoo turned over e-mail information to the authorities that resulted in the arrest of a journalist, and other companies are building computer infrastructure to help the government keep a tight lid on online information.

At last count, China was employing between 30,000 and 50,000 people whose sole job is to ensure no wayward information can be found online.

The Chinese government is free to do what it wants with information, and if it insists on controlling it, and if the people accept that, then so be it. But it’s a sad day when western companies become enablers, all in the name of the almighty dollar.

NoLuv4Google.com in NY Times

Tom Zeller Jr of the New York Times covers NoLuv4Google in his article on US internet companies relationships with China. The broken-hearted ex-Googler quoted below is Kunchok Wangmo.

It is telling, to say the least, that the darling of so many technophiles — which promised to "do no evil" — is now on the receiving end of spontaneous boycotts, with disillusioned search-lovers looking for alternatives. These signs of lost innocence also show that the race for China may soon offer a selling point to companies that don't cooperate with repressive regimes.

"Today, I know you don't deserve me," wrote one visitor to NoLuv4Google.org, a site where users can "break up" with Google and officially boycott the search giant on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. "You betrayed my love and trust. I have been with you for so many years. Now, we are through! FOREVER. I am gonna hook up with IceRocket."

IceRocket is one of several search alternatives listed at NoLuv4Google.org, which is run by a group called Students for a Free Tibet. Clusty.com, a search site developed by several Carnegie Mellon computer scientists, is another. Clusty proudly states that it "never censors search results" or excludes material "that would be objectionable to governments or would be unlawful in unelected, nondemocratic regimes."

In an e-mail message, Mark Cuban, IceRocket's founder, put it more bluntly: "IceRocket doesn't and won't censor. We index more than one million Chinese-language blogs. No chance we censor or block anything in this lifetime."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Google China's Pres gets Hu Jintao Treatment

Kaifu Lee, the new President of Google China went on a Bay Area roadshow yesterday, speaking to overflowing halls of Chinese students (mostly computer geeks) at UC Berkeley and Standford University about how to climb up the Google corporate ladder quickly. SFTers and members of the Bay Area Tibetan community were there to give him the royal treatment.

There was a big crowd of us at Berkeley, and we managed to give flyers to almost everyone going into the talk. A bunch of geeks thanked us for the flyers. We also managed to get a couple of copies of Kaifu Lee's self help book, on how to become evil quickly. Here is Della with a copy:

We then rushed to Stanford, where Yangchen & Avi and the SFT Stanford crew had done some great scouting work and figured out how we could best crash Kaifu Lee's little geek party. Thupten and Tsering Wangmo welcomed Kaifu Lee by yelling at him and giving him our flyer, which he took! Some of us went into the hall and during his LONG talk, which was all in Chinese, Palden, Wangchuk, Dawa, Della and Avi all stood up with big cloth banners. Our newest SFT chapter at Gunn High School (50 members!) held down the back of the room, holding up with placards that said "SHAME ON GOOGLE" and "Kaifu LeEVIL."

After about 30 minutes, we were getting so hot & bored inside, since the whole talk was in Chinese and the room was overcrowded. Thank god the crew outside, started chanting - loudly.

Some of the Chinese student organizers came outside at this point. They wanted us t whether we regiso be quiet and thought that by telling us "pssssssssssssssssssst!" they would suceed. Thupten explained to them why that wasn't going to work. One of the talk organizers couldn't handle it. All he could say after that was "Did you register for the talk?" We assured him we hadn't. He asked again. And again. And again. I think he still may not knowtered. So we started chanting again, as loudly as we could. I think the folks with the banners in the hall were happy they didn't have to listen to Kaifu's jokes in Chinese anymore. I don't think Kaifu Lee was too happy. He skipped the Q&A and and looked a bit tense when we spoiled all his photo opportunities after the talk with our signs.

Kaifu Lee's walk to his car was probably the most attention this man has ever got! 20 of us surrounded and followed him, chanting at him through the bullhorn and waving our signs around. He should feel honored that he got the Hu Jintao treatment! Here he is with his royal entourage.
Can you spot Kaifu Lee?

Yangchen had contacted her student paper, the Stanford Daily, who sent a reporter to the talk. We'll post that article when it comes out. Also, a reporter and photographer from the San Francisco Chronicle came. You can check out the article here. You can also see a lot more photos here.

The end. Google - see you on Valentine's Day.

Bay Area SFT Takes On President of Google China

Kai-Fu Lee, the president of Google China, got to hear first hand what SFTers in the Bay Area think about Google's partnership with the Chinese government. Lee is the gentleman dressed in full black (surprise surprise) in the picture at the right. Rockin' SFT HQ alumni Alma has a great quote in the San Francisco Chronicle:

One group critical of Google, Students for a Free Tibet, showed up Saturday, holding signs such as "Kaifu Leevil" and marching outside as Lee gave his talk at Stanford.

Lee left almost immediately after his talk, dodging protesters on his way to his car.

"We hope to get the message to Kai-Fu Lee that we won't stand for censorship," said Alma David, a University of San Francisco law school student and a member of Students for a Free Tibet. "We see a company selling out its values for a profit. Its 'don't be evil' just seems like a bad joke."

Great work SF crew!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

SFT Canada Represents!

SFTer Confronts Chinese Ambassador, Bombardier, and Hundreds of Trade-Above-All Greedheads In One Fell Swoop

SFT Canada's Jessica Spanton made a righteous ruckus at a business luncheon in Montreal featuring China's Ambassador to Canada Lu Shumin. The Montreal Gazette made it the lead in a story about the luncheon, held in the ballroom of Montreal's Hyatt hotel:
Lu Shumin's speech was as warmed over as the salmon entree that preceded it. The only spice came when a solitary student seated in the far corner of the Hyatt ballroom rose, unfurled a Tibetan flag and denounced both the Chinese government and Bombardier Inc.

Bombardier has been a frequent protest target for its involvement in a rail project in Tibet.

Human-rights groups say the rail line is part of China's "ongoing colonization of Tibet."

"Shame on China and shame on Bombardier," said Jessica Spanton of Students for a Free Tibet, before being hustled from the room to the stunned silence of the 400-strong crowd.
Nice job Jessica and SFT Canada. They can run (and spin) but they can't hide (and they'll never win). I'm sure the 400 people whose "stunned silence" the article describes had no choice but to review their consciences in light of your courageous action. Read more on the SFT Canada Blog.

Google's Hiding Tanks in Tiananmen

Thanks to WIIIAI for pointing this out to me via email. The Times UK Online has this tidbit on Google.cn:
More bad news for Google: in the week that its shares plunged after it failed to hit Wall Street’s ambitious targets it turns out that its controversial Chinese internet filter doesn’t work if you can’t spell. Paul Boutin, a blogger, pointed out that if on Google.cn you “search for Tianenmen, Tienanmen and Tiananman” you get “Tanks, tanks, more tanks”.
I'd seen the Boutin post before, but it's nice to see Google's technical ineptitude get play alongside it's moral ineptitude. I'm glad this hole exists in Google's filter, though I expect it will be closed shortly. [I just checked, the loop-hole is closed: searches for Tianenmen, Tienanmen, and Tiananman now return no image results.] The bad news referenced there is to Google's craptastic 4th Quarter earnings falling far below Wall Street's expectations. It's stock fell from around $435 to $381 a share this week, costing Larry Page and Sergey Brin personally about $12 million combined (don't worry, they're not even close to being out on the street).

Friday, February 03, 2006

Univ of Hawaii SFT chapter in the local paper - Ka Leo

STUDENTS MEET FRIDAY FOR A FREE TIBET
By Jina Sohn
Ka Leo Contributing Writer
February 02, 2006

University of Hawai'i at Manoa graduate Love Chance gets asked all the time, "What's 'Tib-Bit?'"

And then she kindly informs the person about Tibet and its people, he or she what you can do to help them. Chance is the founder and former president of Students For a Free Tibet, a UHM Registered Independent Organization and Hawaii's only SFT chapter, SFT is holding its first meeting of the year tomorrow from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Campus Center, room 309.

"The purpose of freedom is to free other people," said Chance. "Students have a lot of power – now we just have to use it."

Read more at http://www.kaleo.org/vnews/display.v/ART/2006/02/02/43e27167688ad

Google Takes Its China Apologism to Congress

Our dear friend Andrew McLaughlin, Google's Senior Policy Counsel, wasn't able to attend Wednesday's Congressional Human Rights Caucus Briefing on "Human Rights and the Internet - People's Republic of China." Google's (and Microsoft, Yahoo, and Cisco's) refusal to testify in person before the Human Rights Caucus certainly suggests a new found timidity of interactions with major governments. Fortunately for us, McLaughlin was brave enough to submit a written statement to the HRC Briefing. As before, McLaughlin's apologism warrants a serious dissection.

I'll warn you, a lot of McLaughlin's defense is tired and familiar.
In order to operate Google.cn as a website in China, Google is required to remove some sensitive information from our search results. These restrictions are imposed by Chinese laws, regulations, and policies.
When Andy Mac is talking about "sensitive information" in regards to China, he's not talking about state secrets or blue prints for a nuclear bomb or the recipe for Chairman Mao's legendary chili. No, he's talking about websites like this one that support Tibetan independence, Taiwanese independence, information on the massacre of peaceful protestors by the Chinese government in Tiananmen Square or about the peaceful Falun Gong. Congressman Tom Lantos has an even clearer rebuttal of McLaughlin's ignorant and simplistic defense of censoring "sensitive information":
It has also been argued Internet companies are entitled to apply the same rules of engagement in China that they apply elsewhere.
[...]
I cannot begin to describe how disgusted I am by this particular argument. Because, in essence, it equates the vile language and evil purposes of Neo-Nazi groups and hate speech with content provided by the human rights activists of Falun Gong, by journalists and by democracy activists in China. There simply is no comparison between efforts of the democratically-elected government of the Federal Republic of Germany to move against hate-mongerers, and the Chinese regime cracking down on religious freedom, human rights and democracy.
Google cannot pretend to not know the difference between hate speech and calls for democracy in China. They're objectively opposed to each other and it is ethical minimalism to suggest the two forms of censorship are equally justifiable as corporate actions under the law. Unfortunately McLaughlin's willfull ignorance doesn't stop there:
We believe these investments...can help advance key objectives supported by the Chinese government, such as building stronger, more efficient, and more equitable markets, promoting the rule of law, and bolstering the fight against corruption.
Excuse me? I just don't know when it became acceptable for US companies to publicly laud themselves for bolstering tyrannical governments. Google wants to promote the rule of law in China, which is actually a logical explanation of why they're helping the CCP censor search results for information that this tyrannical government is afraid of. Censorship existed in China before Google, yet it still has the same purpose -- to prevent people inside China and Tibet from knowing what's really going on in their world. As the saying goes, knowledge is power and China, like any dictatorship, doesn't want its people to have any power.
We are not happy about governmental restrictions on access to information, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information...We believe that our continued engagement with China is the best (and perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.
Google must be using the Reverse Psychology Method of Governmental Reform. You're unhappy with China's censorship, so you'll do it for them in hopes that they'll change? You think engagement in a practice you claim to abhor is the best way to get it to stop? I'm sorry, that's simply absurd. Giving China unlimited license to censor information on the internet is not the way to get the CCP to stop censoring. I'm no expert, but I doubt you'll find many psychologists recommending you give your dangerously overweight child an unending supply of Twinkies, cheese fries, and Turducken as a way to convince them to eat less. In the same way, you don't get a government to stop oppressing it's people by telling them you're fine with them doing it.

McLaughlin does offer some good suggestions for the future operational standards of American internet companies to work inside repressive regimes like China.
Together with colleagues at other leading Internet companies, we are actively exploring the potential for Internet industry guidelines, not only for China but for all countries in which Internet content is subjected to governmental restrictions. Such guidelines might encompass, for example, disclosure to users, and reporting about governmental restrictions and the measures taken in response to them.

In addition to common action by Internet companies, there is an important role for the United States government to address, in the context of its bilateral government-to-government relationships, the larger issues of free expression and open communication. For example, as a U.S.-based company that deals primarily in information, we have urged the United States government to treat censorship as a barrier to trade.

These are two legitimate, thoughtful ideas for creating a better, smarter way for US companies to do business with China. First, US tech companies need to sit down and agree that for the sake of their morals and their desire not to face boycotts like this one, they will all agree to uphold standards commensurate with America's democratic principles. Don't promote censorship, don't turn journalists over to the authorities, and protect your users privacy -- none of these should be a stretch. Of course the flip side is that China's domestic laws really are a barrier to trade with China. Google admirably held out on censorship for a long time, but if the US government treated China's internet censorship as a trade barrier for American companies, Google could have recourse to providing a better product that didn't spread propaganda. Hopefully Congress under the leadership of Lantos and Chris Smith will move towards protecting the ability of American companies to preserve our ethical standards of business practice when dealing with China. All that said, I haven't seen Google , Microsoft, and Yahoo rush to form these standards McLaughlin is suggesting.

One last matter before I leave McLaughlin be until his next writing.
Google has been actively engaged in discussion and debate about China with a wide range of individuals and organizations both inside and outside of China, including technologists, businesspeople, government officials, academic experts, writers, analysts, journalists, activists, and bloggers. We aim to expand these dialogues as our activities in China evolve, in order to improve our understanding, refine our approach, and operate with openness.
I'm not in a position to verify this statement because Google has never reached out to Students for a Free Tibet or any of the bloggers who write for Tibet Will Be Free. As far as we know Google has never consulted with Tibetans about their opinions on censorship in China. Clearly a voice was missing from whatever internal debate they were having. Whatever discussions Google did have, in the end they ignored every voice against censorship and oppression and for freedom and democracy.

If Google is actually committed to having dialogue on this issue, I suggest they reach out to someone or some group whose opinion differs from their own. If Google still thinks it can effect change in China, they need to understand what avenues of Change they've blocked out by censoring websites on Tibet, human rights, and democracy. Students for a Free Tibet's supporters have sent well over 38,000 emails to Google. We have received no response. If Google has any real commitment to increasing Tibetans' access to information in China, they should contact Students for a Free Tibet for our opinions on their action. In case they haven't been able to surmise them yet...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rep. Lantos Spanks Google

California's 12th District is fortunate have Tom Lantos represent them. He's a leader on human rights and has placed himself at the forefront of the Google censorship issue. Lantos has some choice words for Google (my emphasis added, his a$$-whooping in the original):

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.

These massively successful high-tech companies which couldn’t bring themselves to send their representatives to our Human Rights Caucus briefing Wednesday on China and the Internet 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 has also been argued Internet companies are entitled to apply the same rules of engagement in China that they apply elsewhere. In Germany, for example, where denying the Holocaust is against the law, access to Neo-Nazi Web pages is impossible via Google. The company notifies its users that not all Web pages may be available. And in its new China services, Google issues a similar warning.

But as the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, I cannot begin to describe how disgusted I am by this particular argument. Because, in essence, it equates the vile language and evil purposes of Neo-Nazi groups and hate speech with content provided by the human rights activists of Falun Gong, by journalists and by democracy activists in China. There simply is no comparison between efforts of the democratically-elected government of the Federal Republic of Germany to move against hate-mongerers, and the Chinese regime cracking down on religious freedom, human rights and democracy.

China’s appalling human rights record never was a secret. U.S. Internet companies simply cannot claim they had no idea of what doing business there could entail. The Internet has always been a vital tool for human rights and democracy advocates in China, and a vital link with the outside world of its oppressed people.

Our Internet companies should have known, because for years their most loyal customers in China have gone to extraordinary technical lengths to bypass government’s controls of the Internet.

If these companies had stood up to Beijing from the beginning, demanding that they retain physical control of their own servers by having them located outside of China, the picture would be very different today.

Bravo, Tom. It's shockingly rare to see a politician take the time to call a fox a fox. And that's what Lantos has done here. Forget the mealy-mouthed arguments by Google's shill Andrew McLaughlin, Lantos says, there's right and there's wrong. Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and Yahoo are wrong. Sure, Google has censored hate speech in Europe and the US (though I personally take issue with this, too), but that's entirely different than the censorship of democracy groups, independence movements, human rights organizations, and religious web sites. Google is supporting tyranny through their partnership with China.

Google's self-defenses are morally vacuous and intellectually lazy. Lantos sees through them, as does every single person who's committed to break up with Google on February 14th. Congress is holding hearings into the operations of Google and other American tech companies in China on February 13th.

Thoughtful Response: Framing Your Commitment

Though we joke otherwise, Google is huge. It's a noun AND a verb. That takes a significant level of ubiquity, which comes through success and a fairly good product. Quiting Google in order to stand by your moral values is a huge move. It means quitting Google searches, Blogger, Gmail, Google local -- sites that all play a huge, daily role in my life and probably yours too. But SFT isn't asking our supporters to quit Google for life -- just for one day, Valentine's Day February 14th.

It's an important distinction and one which blogger Jacyln at PopPolitics catches:
I'm thinking how brilliant and easy that is, and how I must do it and tell everyone I know about it, so that we can make a noticeable impact and cost them some real market share everywhere else.

And then I realize that gmail is Google. And it's my email provider. And it's the best damn email service I've ever seen. And I'm addicted to it.

And then I read how we're only required to break up with Google for one day. Just Valentine's Day. And I think just maybe I can do that. Not check my email for one day. Use a different search engine. Get my directions from MapQuest. Steer clear of blogs hosted by Blogger. Maybe. For one day. For the sake of human rights and corporate accountability.

Can you?

I'm glad Jacyln caught this distinction. I hope people understand that we're not asking you all to quit Google forever. It'd be cool and righteous if you did, but we decided it was more than we could ask of our supporters. Just do it for a day, or more, and tell us your "break up" story at NoLuv4Google.com.

The reality is the Google boycott is very similar to the Made in China boycott. It's something that we feel very strongly about, but recognize the level of sacrifice it takes to live up to. I don't buy goods made in China. Yes, it IS that hard. No, I'm not 100% perfect. But I have decide that I don't want to support the Chinese government by supporting their export economy. It's my choice and I'll encourage you to do the same, but I'm not on a pilgrimage to stop the American consumption of Chinese goods.

Likewise, I'm moving myself away from Google. I'm working on transfering my personal blog off of Blogger to another platform. I've opened an IceRocket email account, though I'm still shopping for one I like a bit more. I've added other search engines to my Firefox browser. I don't expect I'll be perfect, but I know that I don't want to support a company that has acted against everything I believe in as an activist for Tibet, a blogger, and an American with an understanding that our basic civil liberties are to be cherished and spread, not limited and kept within our borders. Quitting Google is a hard decision, but there are dozens of alternatives to every tool Google offers.

All I'm asking is that you take a break from Google for a day. It really isn't a big commitment when you think about it and I promise I won't hold it against you if you backslide.

Outrage, By the Numbers

I wanted to check in and give everyone an update on the status of SFT's NoLuv4Google campaign. As of this writing:
  • 455 people have committed to break up with Google on February 14th;
  • 2,152 emails have been sent to executives of Microsoft, Yahoo, and Cisco calling them to end their partnerships with China. And most importantly...
  • 35,390 emails have been sent to Google's executives in direct response to their despicable and hypocritical partnership with the Chinese government to censor the truth and spread propaganda.
The numbers are growing every day. Do your part and commit to breaking up with Google for January 14th. Take the time to tell Google to stop blocking internet users in Tibet and China from finding the truth they're looking for.