OTTAWA, Sept. 20, 2011 /CNW/ - The complicity of Western internet
companies in Chinese online censorship is the subject of a new report
by The SecDev Group.
"Collusion and collision: Searching for guidance in Chinese cyberspace" examines how companies have struggled to balance ethical and economic
interests in their bid to capture the world's largest market of
The report provides an overview of the 'Great Firewall' of China, the
past participation of five US technology giants (Google, Yahoo!,
Microsoft, Skype and Cisco) in China's censorship regime, and the legal
and ethical obligations and commitments that are violated by censoring
Key report findings:
• The Chinese government has enacted a pervasive regime of laws, rules,
and regulations that empower it with control over access to the
internet, content, and user information. The regime applies these controls to online communications within
China as well as data entering or leaving the country. Foreign
companies are required to comply as a condition of doing business.
• China's censorship and surveillance policies are of particular concern
to Western companies that provide internet search engine services. Search engines
can be gateways to content control. They also collect specific information on users. As such, search
engines can be powerful tools for online policing and controlling the
flow of information available to users.
• Most of the major Western internet companies active in China - for
example, Google, Yahoo! Microsoft and Cisco - are based in the United
States. All have faced ethical dilemmas when faced with China's censorship and
• Most companies have acceded to China's demands for information control,
seeing this as the price of doing business. This choice has often led to concrete instances where the companies
have aided and abetted human rights abuses, as the case-studies in this
• By contrast, Google opted to withdraw its services from mainland China.
• China's policies contravene U.S. positions on cyberspace openness,
access to information, freedom of speech and the individual's right to privacy. They also violate accepted international norms on these issues --
norms that are increasingly being extended to include cyberspace.
So what should be done about Western ICT corporations active in China
whose compliance with Chinese law requires them to collude in the violation of
established human rights?
• Voluntary codes to enforce ethical behavior on the part of corporations
have thus far been ineffective, and existing legal remedies are
inadequate. No real legal remedies exist to deter and correct corporate complicity
in aiding and abetting Chinese human rights abuses.
• This report calls for new approaches that are practical, realistic, and
actionable, and that balance the competing public and private interests at stake.
"The lack of legal remedies and the hollowness of voluntary codes mean
that the only incentive to uphold basic international norms is a sense
of conscience and the potential for bad publicity," said Rafal
Rohozinski, founder and CEO of the SecDev Group. "Complicity with
censorship compromises cyberspace as a global commons. This has the
potential to damage not only freedom of expression and access to
information, but also global commerce."
"The power of internet companies in the information age to shape our
access to information, freedom of speech and the individual's right to
privacy are tremendous," added Rohozinski. "As responsible corporate
citizens these companies -- as well as their home governments -- cannot
continue 'business as usual' any longer."
About The SecDev Group
The SecDev Group works at the cross-roads of global security and
development. We provide analysis, toolsets and investigations that
inform policy and address risk in the information age. Our focus is
countries at risk from violence, insecurity and underdevelopment. Our
methods combine in-field research -- consulting people on the front
line of events -- with advanced data-mining and visualization
techniques. Our goal is to bridge the gaps between research, policy and
We represent a global consortium of practitioners, scholars, and former
policy-makers with expertise in development, conflict and recovery,
armed non-state actors, security, intelligence and the cross-cutting
impacts of cyberspace.
SOURCE The SecDev Group
For further information:
Phone: (613) 755-4007