Gates won't cross China government

Gates won't cross China government

Summary: Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Bono, were honored at the "Persons of the Year" by Time Magazine for their good works. "For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are Time's Persons of the Year," Time wrote.

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TOPICS: Censorship
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gatestime.jpgBill and Melinda Gates, along with Bono, were honored at the "Persons of the Year" by Time Magazine for their good works. "For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are Time's Persons of the Year," Time wrote. The $29 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation should earn the Gates' Nobel Prizes and eternal thanks from the entire planet. However, when it comes to the business of the Internet the Bill Gates who built an empire on high IQ and some rapacious business practices, noted by the Department of Justice and EU, isn't going to earn any peace prizes.

While at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Gates argued that state censorship shouldn't stop technology companies from doing business in China. In essense, he was defending Google's concessions in censoring its China site, as well as Microsoft's and Yahoo's. "I think (the Internet) is contributing to Chinese political engagement. ... Access to the outside world is preventing more censorship," Gates said as reported by the AP. In other words, some is better than none. And, you can be sure that Gates is walking a fine political line with China--trying to get the Chinese to pay for his products and reduce the piracy. Taking a stand against censorship, telling the Chinese authorities how to run their country won't sell.  

Gates also said that China is reducing poverty, which could lead to many more of the 1.3 billion Chinese citizens joining the 64 million already participating in the broadband Internet revolution. Those Chinese citizens joining the broadband revolution, won't be getting the unvarnished Internet--just the portion allowed by the government. Given that filtering out what the Chinese authorities don't want isn't an exact science and that you can't keep a billion people from circumventing the system, the censorship efforts will ultimately fail. By design the Internet is porous.

It's crystal clear that Microsoft and other tech companies aren't about to forego economic opportunity in China or other countries that censor the Internet. The philosophy is that some censorship of the Internet is better than not having it at all. In the meantime, Yahoo provided personal information leading to the incarceration of a journalist and the big three have firewalled sites that the Chinese government finds that  may "harm the dignity and interests of the state" or that foster "evil cults" or "damage the social stability."

My colleague Mitch Ratcliffe writes:

...abetting a tyranny is always wrong, no matter how you dress it. Bill Gates can say this today, but he isn't doing any favors for the people in China who will suffer today because of the censorship he condones.

A teenage Chinese girl seeking information about birth control won't find the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnance site on Google (though she will find it on Yahoo! and MSN), but she may get a cure to tuberculosis in exchange. That's a calculus of justice that Gates isn't entitled to judge, because those decisions should be up to the individual, not the companies purporting to offer her access to the world's knowledge.

I wrote about how the moral ground is shifting for the "do not evil" Google. Nick Carr captures the big picture in this post:  

...The internet is being subsumed into the real world.

Brin's belief that the internet might exist in a separate uncompromised space, where all the world's information is always available, unfiltered, to everyone, is not just a personal ideal; it's one of the internet's foundational ideals. And it's a good ideal: it puts a stake in the ground. But it's clear now that the future of the internet is going to be determined by how wisely we compromise that ideal, not by how fiercely we hold onto it.

Topic: Censorship

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17 comments
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  • God, what a cheap shot

    Not only is Farber's column a cheap shot, it smacks of hypocrisy, opportunism, and either a lack of knowledge of world affairs or a purposeful ignorance of what has been going in China for the last few decades.

    I suppose for Farber it is a perfect opportunity to slam the philanthropy of Gates because when the Time cover came out, Gates had given way too much time and money for any negative criticism to stick. Wonderful touch with the cover reproduction by the way...

    But rather then go into more details why not put it this way.

    Microsoft (and Googele) are bad for working with and under the Chinese governments rules. So, lets boycott both companies. But while we are at and to be fair, let's boycott the rest of the industries and/or companies that work under the same Chinese government. Of course we might be shooting ourselves in the foot since, if we do boycott them, we shouldn't...
    Do any banking
    Buy insurance including healthcare insurance
    Eat
    Drive cars and trucks
    Use computers or networks
    Enjoy fast food
    Buy proprietary software
    Buy open source software
    Wear clothes or shoes
    Fly

    I'm sure this the short list, but slamming Google and MS is almost absurd in face the hundreds of American business/industry profiting from China. And who have been doing so for decades.


    Oh...add another one to the list. Ziff Davis, who has joint publishing ventures with China.
    bob2cam
    • Misreading my post

      I'm not sure you actually read what I wrote based on your critique...so let me outline the points.

      1.Gates's philanthropy is incredible...I said it should earn the Gates' Nobel Prizes and eternal thanks from the entire planet. The Time cover wasn't intended as a diss

      2. On the business side Gates has built a powerhouse that has lasted 30 years and is still going strong. But some MS business practices in the past have been rapacious--a contrast to his philathropic work...(making money is a tougher sport than giving it away)

      3. At Davos Gates says the Internet is contributing to Chinese political engagement and tech companies should do business in China despite the censorship. Nothing new in that statement, given MS is already there

      4.I say Gates is walking a fine political line with China?trying to get the Chinese to pay for his products and reduce the piracy. Taking a stand against censorship, telling the Chinese authorities how to run their country isn't the preferred negotiation method.
      I would add to that statement...that the Chinese won't change their policies based on what Google or MS, Brin or Gates or Bush have to say about censorship in China.

      5.I say that censorship efforts will ultimately fail. By design the Internet is porous. But the fact is, the tech moguls tread carefully about saying anything that would piss off the Chinese

      6. It's crystal clear that Microsoft and other tech companies aren't about to forego economic opportunity in China or other countries that censor the Internet or pirate software.

      7. The philosophy is that some censorship of the Internet is better than not having it at all. True enough, but it avoids taking any stand on censorship. In the meantime, Yahoo provided personal information leading to the incarceration of a journalist and the big three have firewalled sites that the Chinese government finds that may "harm the dignity and interests of the state" or that foster "evil cults" or "damage the social stability."

      8.Mitch Ratcliffe provides an illustration of the consequences of censorship

      9. Nick Carr has the big picture-- the future of the internet is going to be determined by how wisely we compromise that ideal, not by how fiercely we hold onto it.

      8. Did I say anything about a boycott??? No. Is taking small steps a good way to push the agenda? Yes. Is a small step having figures like Gates and Brin taking a stand on censorship...at least coming up with something better than 'us having a site in China is better than us not being there."

      Regarding Google: Google said Tuesday it will block politically sensitive terms on its new China search site and not offer e-mail, chat and blog publishing services, which authorities fear can become flashpoints for social or political protest. Those actions go further than many of its biggest rivals in China.

      "I didn't think I would come to this conclusion--but eventually I came to the conclusion that more information is better, even if it is not as full as we would like to see," Brin told Reuters in an interview in Switzerland.

      Regarding Ziff-Davis joint ventures...don't know anything about it. ZDNet is part of CNET and we have a large presence in China, providing uncensored tech info.
      dbfarber
      • In a Nut Shell

        You got it right here, Bill and the boys can do some arm twisting through legal haranguing in the US and now going on in Europe. Bill and the boys know how to easily work these systems.

        But these are not the systems in China. The government also "IS" the legal system in China. MS understands that kind of power, the "do it our way or you won?t be doing it at all" kind of power.
        bigpicture
    • Thin Line Here

      It makes it OK if the robber barons give away the money that they stole in the first place? Is that the rational here?

      When it comes to a choice between money and supporting humanitarian principles, which do you think will win? Greed or the advancement of humanity?
      bigpicture
  • Pushing your ideas on people.

    I agree with Gates on the issue they will find their way around the filters and censorship. But I ask you, is this not what he tries to do to us by forcing us to use his web browser for getting downloads and forcing us to use windows applications? I think that is being a bit of a hypocrite. He says China is wrong for pushing the political Ideas and principles on its people when he pushes his on us. He is telling us he is wrong for how he does things too?
    ridemyrathe
    • You are not forced

      Firefox is available; use it. There has never been any obsticle to using a non-MS browser. Who is forcing you to use MS applications? Certainly not Gates. Is he standing behind you with a gun to your head?

      You are not forced to use the browser or any MS applications or Windows itself. You have options, exercise them or shut up.
      balsover
      • Not Forced??????? Yeah Right

        As a Computer Engineer I agree I personally am not forced to use Microshafts overpriced, underdeveloped, bloated, garbageware. I make a choice and use firefox, Knopix etc.
        But when you say the average person is not forced to used Microsoft, what a amusing comment, I guess you don't have too much to do with computers? If you call comcast and ask for tech support, what is there first question? "What version of windows are you running"! The average person DOES NOT have a choice and really haven't since gates killed OS2.
        You can get all high and mighty about you have options, exercise them or shut up but until you look at the options and try to use them in a MS monopolized world it would be best if you shut up.
        user1_z
        • No, you're not.

          As an "average person," I have to say that I'm very satisfied with Microsoft's products overall. To some degree, they are overpriced... but your other terms, namely "bloated, underdeveloped garbageware" is far from the truth. I have some criticism's of Microsoft's software, but not to that level.

          The average person has a choice. The most popular choice is generally going out and buying a Mac. But there are a million other "choices" out there, and if a person is really hell-bent on de-Microsofting his or her computer, he or she WILL do the research necessary to do it.

          You speak of a "Microsoft monopolized world," I ask, what's wrong with Windows XP being the dominant operating system? It won. Deal with it. Frankly, I enjoy the security of knowing that I can run all my applications on Windows, and burn my media onto a CD, and then go over to a friend's house and show him what I just did in 3D Studio Max.

          You have options, and perhaps if your argument held an ounce of credibility that perhaps sounded different than, "I HATE MICRO$UCKS LOL" then I might take it credibly.

          -Pikl
          A_Pickle
  • Glass houses and rocks...

    Tell us about the joint venture of ZD and China...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
  • So MS should ignore their laws???

    Um, how does that sit with your ranting about MS following the law in the EU? Or are you saying following the laws of the land should be based on personal opinion about them? I favor this law so I follow it, I don't favor that one so I ignore it???

    No the fact is progress in human freedoms is a process of little steps from the old to the new. Anything else is called a revolution and in revolutions lots of people die...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
  • China, Google, Yahoo, MSN

    Dan-

    I beg to differ with you & Nick Carr on this one. There is no moral question here.

    Put yourself in the position of a senior manager answerable to shareholders - Brin, Gates, whomever.

    What? Are you going to NOT play in China. Give me a break! Soft-minded idjits.
    swhiser
    • About China, Google, Yahoo, MSN

      Not a question if they will play in the biggest new market that dwarfs the US...question of how they play....and as Nick points out the age of Internet innocence for the Google boys is over...how far do they bend over to play in a market that doesn't support free speech...why not just say loudly that they don't support censorship of this kind but they can't let economic opportunity grow....be straightforward and transparent about the whole thing...which is what I have been saying...that GYM are coming up with rationalization rather just saying what is and living with the heat that should properly come their way
      dbfarber
      • Dwarfing US market?

        There is no market that dwarfs the U.S. Sheer numbers do not necessarily equate to revenue. The U.S. economy's market value in USD is $13 trillion versus China's $2 trillion, and only under the most pessimistic projections for the U.S. economy and the most optimistic SET of projections for China's economy does her GDP (and her market) become a U.S. peer in the 2040s.

        China is an incredibly important market, but hyperbole such as "dwarfing" the U.S. market ignores reality.
        Sandreckoner
  • dwarfing

    In terms of growth opportunities for US companies
    dbfarber
  • China's truth manipulation

    The big Internet censorship issue is not teen problems. China could justify a war with Taiwan by blocking access to hearing what the Taiwanese really want. There are a many young Turks in China today who actually want to sacrifice the lives of three million Chinese and sixty thousand foreigners (Chinese estimates) to "free Taiwan from the U. S. Imperialism." Their words. Not mine.
    Virgil101
  • Gee, Gates selling out...

    go figure. What's next, the polar ice caps melting? Wonders never cease. BTW, Loverock and Crybaby_Has_Ax_to_Grind work for ZDNet. They are also MSFT share holders. >:-l
    Nix_0S_Fan
  • crossing governments

    kinda missing the point here. gone are the days of the U.S.A. being the leader in freedom. this will come back to bite us in the ass!! as we write this, our own elected govt. is agreeing that we have too much freedom! they will use this for their own ends.
    yorel