Skype has admitted that its Chinese partner company Tom Online - which doesn't yet offer SkypeOut by the way- is censoring some Skype text messages.
"Tom had implemented a text filter, which is what everyone else in that market is doing," Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom tells the U.K.-based Financial Times business newspaper. "Those are the regulations."
As a First Amendment near-absolutist, I could launch a rant here that free speech on and over the Internet ought to be protected- and providers of Web-based services who find themselves subject to censorship in and by certain nations should tell them to back off or we're outta here.
But the world is not as simple as that.
Whether it is Skype, Google or Yahoo!., I happen to think that providing services in a censoring nation may be objectionable, but it opens the door to communication.
Plus, how effective a censoring tool are text-filter trigger words, really?
I meaI think that a Mandarin text filter would probably red-flag (pun intended) IM exchanges with phrases deemed by the government as incendiary.
But although I don't speak Chinese, I do know that most languages have between-the-lines proxies for certain words and thoughts. And especially with regard to hot topics - political controversies, sex, or whatever- the nature of those topics as front-burner conversation is likely to spawn a constant flow of new proxies that the text filters just aren't going to know about in real time.
And are you going to tell me that Tom Online's filter is going to be a peeping tom, as it were, and will able to catch all of these?