Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Outsourcing censorship

Microsoft is censoring its MSN Spaces weblogs on behalf of the Chinese government. Chinese users attempting to post messages containg words such as "democracy", "freedom", or "human rights" are faced with a pop-up warning saying

"This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression."

Microsoft's excuse is that they are "a multi-national business and as such [need] to manage the reality of operating in countries around the world". In other words, it is about being allowed to continue making money in China. I guess that we need to find a way of altering the equation, so that bowing to totalitarian governments costs them more business than it earns...

So, what can we do to associate the Microsoft brand with censorship?


Why would anyone expect the corporate vehicle - as currently structured - to behave any differently?
CEOs and shareholders are incented to maximise short-term profits, and can be gone 15secs after the first sign of problems. Shareholders and executives who benefit when a corp. behaves badly are frequently not the ones who pay the price when the poultry returns to roost.
Until these and other structural problems are addressed, the corporate machine will continue to behave extremely efficiently, in precisely the way its design would predict.
Brand war is ultimately a futile effort, because the bulk of the public and shareholders lack the morality or the attention span to prosecute it in the long term.
The only effective restraint is going to be to alter the fundamental structure of companies - this is where the left should be making a concerted effort to create an alternative model. Anderton was ridiculed for his proposed financial transaction/speculation tax, but ridicule/denial is almost universally the first defence aginst new ideas - I've never seen an effective critique of that proposal.
The problem is, Labour is establishment to the core on financial matters and will never entertain even speculating on something this radical. Only the Greens (and Progressives in the past) will even begin to discuss it.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/15/2005 12:52:00 PM

Hmmm .... I think this battle is one we are doomed to loose. And possibly one that hurts us while not really causing any trouble for the oppressors.

Still I'm probably just being too defeatist.

Posted by Genius : 6/15/2005 09:40:00 PM

It isn't just Microsoft though, is it?

As we have seen over the last couple of years there are plenty of large, privately owned media corporations in the USA who refused to voice dissenting opinions in regard to Iraq and obediently broadcast the official (Republican) party line.

In other words they did what a government required of them. I see no difference in Microsoft's case.

Never forget that corporations are fundamentally amoral and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, they will not do for money.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/16/2005 05:31:00 PM

Keep in mind being in favour of supporting the Chinese government is not a republican policy it is a democrat /EU policy, for example take the EU's eagerness to arm china with the latest weaponry - (could be useful for shooting at local farmers or potentially slaughtering taiwanesse).

At least insult the republicans in the right threads.

Posted by Genius : 6/16/2005 07:08:00 PM