Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton's speech on Internet Freedom

Text of Clinton's speech:


Only a week after Google's announcement to the world that it would no longer censor in China, the timing of Clinton's speech likely makes the relationship between Google and the US Government seem closer than it actually is.

Not to mention that..historically The Chinese have not taken all to well to direct confrontation or any challenge to their absolute authority and Goggle's move followed by Clinton's speech makes me, as an Emerging Media and Communications Graduate student, a bit uncomfortable.

I'm currently living in Beijing and have had an opportunity to ask many locals what they think about the Google 'threat' (as it is now being called). For the the most part, people think Google's decision is entirely motivated by profit. And, quite frankly, those inside China do not have access to, so how would they be able to read Google's post? On State-run news? No.

While many netizens in China use a variety of means to circumvent the 'Great Firewall of China' the majority of the population only have access to a censored or 'harmonized' Internet. What this means is that while the rest of the world is patting Google on the back, the Chinese people are getting the impression that Google is abandoning them for the sake of their bottom line. Many of my Chinese professors and Beijing Yuppie friends use Google services and it seems that the middle class will be hit hardest if Google decides to close shop. Though, I've also been met with great hostility from individuals while trying to discuss the topic. One person told me: "WE HAVE OUR OWN! We don't need Google!"

While I think this is short-sighted, it sobers my enthusiasm and causes me to ponder on the long-term ramifications of Google's announcement.

Two personal insights from Clinton's speech:

While I resonate with the description Clinton used of the Internet being "a new nervous system for the planet." I was disappointed at her lack of sensitivity when she cited that Internet freedom as a "god-given right."

Personal beliefs aside, that was a diplomatically irresponsible statement to make when you are having a conversation with the world and particularly the Chinese. The ground of conversation is simply doomed to fail if diametrically opposed from the beginning - and makes finding a common ground difficult, if not impossible.

While living in China I would benefit more from a REASONABLY PRICED international DATA service plan - one that didn't cost me over $100 additionally per-month. The cost of global, mobile internet service is more crippling to me than the Chinese Firewall. I can get around the Firewall! I cannot, however, get around my AT&T International Data charges!!!!


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