E-mail providers comply with China’s human rights abuses

Amber Hughes

China’s efforts to control the information available to its citizens have gotten more challenging since the Internet was introduced in the country. Many saw the Internet as the beginning of the end of communism in China. That has not been the case.

Yahoo!, MSN and Google have all followed China’s orders and helped to censor the information China’s citizens can access on the Internet. Yahoo! and Google have modified the search engines of their Chinese sites so that certain results can not be viewed. Some banned words include many curse words, “sex,” “simple,” “chinaliberal,” and “naïve.” A search on Google for “democracy” delivered 289,000,000 hits, but the same search on Google.cn (the Chinese version) delivered 76,800,000 hits. A search for “revolution” delivered 329,000,000 hits on the U.S. page but 97,400,000 hits on the Chinese page. On Yahoo!, the search for “democracy” delivered 108,000,000 hits, but only 411,000 on the Chinese version. A search of “revolution” delivered 171,000,000 for Yahoo and 690,000 for Yahoo! China.

MSN shut down one of its member’s blogs when the Chinese government became unhappy with information about kitten murders and questions about the Chinese government. Yahoo! gave the Chinese government the identity of an email account holder when he sent emails to the United States, which the Chinese government considered “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.”

MSN, Yahoo! and Google have all defended themselves, saying that it is policy to work with local regulations when providing Internet services. Some have also said that some information is better than no information to Chinese citizens and that by working with the government, at least the citizens can have access to some information.

However, human rights groups are speaking out against both the censorship and these companies’ compliance with it, saying that it goes against international law and the Chinese constitution. Amnesty International says on its Web site that it considers Shi Tao, the man imprisoned after Yahoo revealed his identity to Chinese officials, a prisoner of conscience, meaning someone held illegally based on his/her beliefs, ideas, political leanings, or religion.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, reads, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” China is in obvious violation of this, despite being a member of the United Nations since 1945. Other countries need to enforce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and American companies should ensure that their full services are available to all users, instead of giving in to the demands of a communist nation.