Today's article in the NY Times regarding Microsoft's decision to close down the blog of Zhao Jing, a well-known blogger with an online pen name An Ti, at the request of the Chinese government highlights a disturbing trend among American companies who, in order to "comply with local laws", have been collaborating with regimes around the globe to censor on-line speech.
Of course, blogging (and the internet in general) offer a tremendous tool for individuals and institutions to communicate their opinions and ideas in a free and open environment, crossing the artificial borders erected by nations and governments. This is one of the beauties of film as well, and one of the reasons I find a mutual attraction to film and the internet; The world is boiled down to its essence-- the work and experiences of individuals. That American corporations would participate in the act of censorship isn't that surprising; one need look no further than the NY Times' own voluntary supression of the Bush White House's domestic spying tactics at the administration's behest to see a clear example of corporations censoring themselves. But when companies like Yahoo and Microsoft start to censor individual speech, in clear violation of the spirit and principles upon which their very companies were built, well, it doesn't inspire much hope.
Apparently, the yuan is mightier than the pen. Shame on them.