The recent news of Google threatening to pull out of china because of the censorship that they are forced to implement is interesting.
I don’t think we can be so high and mighty about countries that filter the Internet. All countries do it it only the amount and subject matter involved, is different. Here in the UK all ISP’s use the Internet Watch Foundation block list. In Saudi Arabia the government filters the external Internet of images of women not fully clothed. Australia is introducing default filtering of the Internet so parents don’t need to set up their own filters.
We in our culture may disagree with these choices, but we should recognise that different cultures feel threatened by information on the internet. There is general agreement in the UK that removing child pornography from the sites you can see is a good thing. We should not simply judge other cultures for their choices. They are making attempts to protect their citizens form information that they feel threatens their society.
I have worked in Saudi and they have built a society that works for the majority. There is no democracy, the King rules, and that is that. But there are other measures of a healthy society. How about maintaining the infrastructure, or treating the sick, on these aspects life for the poor (Saudi nationals only) is pretty good. This is maintained on the oil revenue but that doesn’t mean that we in the west should condemn them for their choices in forming their society.
I do think we can comment on the processes that these block lists are created and maintained. In the west and in Saudi there is a fairly broad consensus of the value of the blocking that is imposed. Though neither would accept the others choice. Do the Chinese people agree with the level of blocking that is imposed on them? I don’t think this is an easy question to answer from our position in the west. But probably if it was put to a general vote I would thing that they would not agree with their governments decision. But then again that isn’t the way that their political system works.
So what we are really saying when we say we don’t agree with the level of censorship is that we disagree with the Chinese political system.