Censorship as Business Strategy


By Samuel Greengard

These days you're lucky if you can get through your morning java without encountering some mention of Google and Internet censorship.

You can view our slide show about Internet censorship and how it works here. Related.

What's important to examine--and what's almost entirely overlooked by the mainstream media--is that what appears to be censorship is actually a weapon in a 21st century economic war -- one that may get uglier before it gets better.

Yes, China does sporadically block a few keywords, particularly centering on Tibet, Taiwanese independence and Tiananmen Square. But as Andrew Lih, Visiting Professor of New Media at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, explains: "About 99 percent of content flows through untouched."

So much for the Great Firewall. What doesn't pass through are social networking services such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa and Flickr, to name a few. Not surprisingly, a smorgasbord of alternative knock-offs is available in China. Skype is also blocked. "Governments block certain services in order to give their own companies a competitive advantage," Lih asserts. This protectionist policy is clearly succeeding.

Today, the second largest domain in the world after .com is .cn. Altogether, more than 16 million domain names end with these letters. Although Google holds an impressive 80 percent market share for Web searches in the U.S. and upwards of 90 percent in Europe, it has never climbed much above 30 percent in China, where the PRC firm Baidu operates. In March, Financial Times stated outright that Chinese authorities "have no intention" of allowing Google to "assume the sort of world dominance it enjoys in many other countries around the world."

Lih adds: "Google knew that it had reached about as large a market share as it ever could or would."

For an interesting editorial on the topic, click here.

The takeaway? U.S. business and IT leaders should realize is that all the discussion about freedom and an open flow of information is largely a smokescreen for a bigger issue: who controls what. The PRC government is serious about thwarting, if not entirely shutting out, foreign entities. And it clearly has the power to succeed. The sooner government officials and business leaders stop playing the censorship rhetoric game the better.

Welcome to the new world order.


3 Comments for "Censorship as Business Strategy"

  • Chimera Balisk April 19, 2010 6:26 pm

    The Red Chinese thugs are chiefly a danger to the people they now oppress and to the immediate neighbours of that regime. Doing business with any thug regime is dangerous. Doing so with any avowedly atheistic communist regime is immoral and nigh insane. Google and Yahoo should never have tried to openly enter that sphere of oppression; all that does is endanger their employees. Any commodity item, such as cast-iron patio furniture, is likely made in a slave-labour camp - in the lao gai. Buying such from a communist source is like buying things made in a Nazi or Siberian concentration camp. A Wal-Mart 'price' may be 'right', but the purchaser will have blood, and other bodily fluids wrung from tortured folk, dripping from his hands. Some time ago, it was said of drugs "Just Say No". Yet chemically-processed white powders are nigh innocuous compared to the moral hazard posed by any doctrinaire atheistic socialism.

  • Coriantumr April 13, 2010 9:13 am

    It has always been about control and economic dominance. I anybody had a different view of the PRC style of Government is certainly naive. The PRC is a dangerous entity, to be seen and acted upon as an entity looking to exert major influence over other countries. Given their record in their own country, one could be extremely suspicious of their intentions with other countries. At any rate, the EU and the United States are at risk here.

  • George Ingram April 09, 2010 9:37 am

    Agreed, China is like any other sovereign, it can only be changed from within. Smart Americans who that we can not induce the People's Republic of China to do anything. It would be consider with jaundice eye. We however need to focus on our lose of liberty here in the United States first and foremost. George Ingram, Computer Scientist

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