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NYT Editorial Slams ISPs Over Online Freedom 127

Posted by Zonk
from the the-goal-is-less-sharing dept.
Erris writes "The New York Times site is running an opinion piece from last weekend which lambasts Yahoo! (and other US ISPs) for cooperating with China and other repressive governments. 'Yahoo's collaboration is appalling, and Yahoo is not the only American company helping the Chinese government repress its people ... Last January, Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey reintroduced the Global Online Freedom Act in the House. It would fine American companies that hand over information about their customers to foreign governments that suppress online dissent.'"
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NYT Editorial Slams ISPs Over Online Freedom

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  • No kidding? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nomad the Odd (1139747) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @07:26AM (#21623149)
    From TFA: "Last January, Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey reintroduced the Global Online Freedom Act in the House. It would fine American companies that hand over information about their customers to foreign governments that suppress online dissent. The bill would at least give American companies a solid reason to decline requests for data, but the big Internet companies do not support it. That shows how much they care about the power of information to liberate the world." Really? The companies don't support the law? Gee that's strange. Why wouldn't they want to be stuck between a legal order to hand over information, and a fine if they do? That law may be a good idea, but it drastically cripples American companies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I think this law means the ISPs have a choice: either get fined in country X for not following the law, or get fined in USA for following the law in country X. Either way, it opens some interesting points for discussion: should anybody (person or company) really be punished for following the law of the country/state/area in which they are? If action Z is legal in country X but illegal in country Y, should I be punished in country Y for doing X in country Z? Suppose Z is "criticising the government", X is U
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by wilsong (322379)
        Your X's, Y's and Z's obscure the issue by artificially limiting the choices: no business should be trading in, profiting from and ultimately supporting totalitarian states. This includes Yahoo and the Do-No-Evil Empire.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          I can agree with you in principle, but think the suggested law is the wrong way to go. You should not be punished for following the law in the places you are, whether it be as a person or as a company. If the law of a country demands that (for example) companies turn over certain information to the authorities the companies following the law should not be punished in another country for doing so.

          If companies doing business with the communist government in China is a problem, then forbid any company in USA

          • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Saturday December 08, 2007 @08:42AM (#21623471) Homepage Journal

            If companies doing business with the communist government in China is a problem, then forbid any company in USA to trade with China and you will have solved the problem.

            Everybody knows China and America do massive trade together. Congress would rather throw stones at Yahoo!, et. al. while maintaining China's favored trade status, sending athletes to the Olympics, and doing nothing about Tibet. Frankly I think trade with China is ultimately more constructive than China-bashing, but the Congresscritters want to have it both ways.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by conlaw (983784)
              The real problem is that probably none of these "US companies" are doing business in or with China. AFIK, Yahoo and Google are working under separate Chinese corporations and the US cannot reach the Chinese subsidiaries of US corporations without "piercing the corporate veil." This would be equivalent to holding every Yahoo shareholder liable for anything that the US company does in the US. The entire body of the law of corporations depends on the rule that a shareholder is not responsible for the actions
              • meanwhile the Chinese don't care if data is on servers for Yahoo USA or Yahoo China... it's got "yahoo" in the name and they simply start putting guns to people's heads until the corporate veil is pierced... with bullets if necessary. In China govts are treated as hostile orgianizations with owners treated more like mob bosses.. and they go after the owners/execs directly if they want things done. US laws about "privacy" don't work against armed thugs... the congress doesn't quite grasp that they pass the
              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by hackingbear (988354)
                Not only that, these Chinese subsidiaries are not really the real one operate in China either. Because China does not allow foreign or joint-venture companies to hold an Internet Content provider (ICP) license; so typically the foreign company and its subsidiaries would own the IPs and the domain name but delegate some trusted Chinese nationals to set up a shell company to hold the ICP and business licenses. There are plenty of lawyers helping you do that.
            • by wytcld (179112) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @09:20AM (#21623653) Homepage
              Where else but China can we get lead toys for our kids [go.com]? How else can we outsource pollution [mercurynews.com] to a nation which believes it's its right to release carbon to make stuff for us [google.com]? And what better than having all that junk shipped to us by fume-belching ships [pasadenastarnews.com]?

              Seriously, ending trade with China would most likely do more to cut particulate pollution (25% of LA's comes from China [the-signal.com]), and cut global warming from coal burning [atimes.com]. Sure, there'd be short-term disruption of American corporate manufacturing patterns. But what we've learned in the process of outsourcing industries to China is how to build new factories quickly. We could use that knowledge again here.
              • by mitgib (1156957) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @09:32AM (#21623731) Homepage Journal

                Seriously, ending trade with China would most likely do more to cut particulate pollution (25% of LA's comes from China [the-signal.com])
                You can make that choice yourself, why wait for the US Government to step in where it doesn't belong in the first place. If you make a personal choice that buying products of China do harm, do not purchase products from China.

                My personal belief is that trading with countries will have and end positive result as the population eventually will see their Government for what it is and change will occur. I don't care how oppressive a government is, if you have 1,000,000,000+ people of your population rising against you, you'll be running for the exit while your head is still upon your shoulders.
                • by jamar0303 (896820)
                  I think that certain choices should not be left to the masses. This is one of them. Given current trends, trade with China may never stop. That pollution will continue to come in, and it will affect everyone. In this case, a personal choice may not help because the results of everyone else's opposition will still affect you. If few people buy Made in USA products, the manufacturers may move production out to China anyway just because everyone else wants cheaper products.

                  I remember being told about peer p
                  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @01:22PM (#21625455)
                    The real problem now is that, even if you could convince a significant number of Americans to only "buy American" ... they couldn't do it. There's are hardly any consumer goods on sale anywhere that aren't Made in China. The masses had a chance fifteen or twenty years ago to vote with their wallets, and they did. They voted for cheap imported goods from China. We're getting exactly what we wanted: cheap imports, at the expense of domestic manufacturing and national independence. The situation is, of course, untenable and is a disaster in the making.

                    Good job, America. Pull out that credit card and keep on voting.
                    • by Kooshman (248753)
                      I too am getting sick of politics putting the sqeeze on American companies. As others discussed here, corporations aren't moral entities-- only people are. Corporations are just a convinient mechanism to organize large groups for economic activity. The moment we opened up the border to trade with China, we were giving them the OK to go over there and do business. If we don't want to give our implicit consent to their political system, then should not have allowed our economies to get entangled.
                      It's a comple
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by CodeBuster (516420)
                  if you have 1,000,000,000+ people of your population rising against you, you'll be running for the exit while your head is still upon your shoulders.

                  Don't be so sure, it is all a matter of perspective. If what you say is true then why are the old men of the Chinese politburo and even worse, Kim Jong Il of North Korea, still in power after decades of people not liking them (even within their own countries where they are to afraid to say anything publicly)? If one is willing, as a dictatorial ruler, to ma
              • "Where else but China can we get lead toys for our kids?"

                Maybe Mexico?
                http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2007/11/29/mattel_destroys_leaden_toys_in_mexico/ [boston.com]

                You realize that these fucked up goods are the result of American companies able to operate without restrictions in foreign countries? The factories are making everything according to spec, and it's Mattel who chooses to cut costs everywhere. Chinese companies are now suing [giftsanddec.com] Mattel for making them look bad.

                I do think that these American i
            • by superwiz (655733)
              Just to give you an idea how much trade we do with China, Chinese goods don't go through customs anymore.
              • Just to give you an idea how much trade we do with China, Chinese goods don't go through customs anymore.

                Day late and a dollar short, my post is, but on the face of it, your statement is a complete falsehood. Chinese goods absolutely do go "through customs" (now Customs and Border Protection under Department of Homeland Security - [Benny Hill salute].)

                Unless you are making a tongue-in-cheek reference to the copious quantities of counterfeit goods that are seized, I fail to understand your statement and

            • by sethstorm (512897) *

              Frankly I think trade with China is ultimately more constructive than China-bashing
              If you call artificial cheapening of their currency, dumping of persistent low-quality goods until they stick, and the selling out of our national sovereignty to them trade, so be it. Don't be surprised to see it continue until the desired outcome is reached, and without the mistakes made with Japan.

            • by dr_d_19 (206418)
              Frankly I think trade with China is ultimately more constructive than China-bashing

              Of course it is. China owns enough dollars to sink the US economy in a couple of hours [currencytrading.net].
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by SL Baur (19540)

            You should not be punished for following the law in the places you are, whether it be as a person or as a company.

            This is the classic Catch-22. Just look at the signs inside the US Embassy next time you travel abroad. They promise absolutely no assistance if you should happen to run afoul of local law enforcement officials. Damned if you, damned if you don't. It is extraordinarily bad law especially since the US doesn't have exactly a stellar record itself on online freedom, though fortunately the Supreme Court keeps overturning the worst of the laws.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by GoMMiX (748510)
              My question is - what the hell do we have TRADE AGREEMENTS with China for. They want to make it illegal for companies to produce this information to these governments, but this government itself is catering heavily to countries with low wage labor, like China. Pass that law, and let's throw some politicians in jail for treason while we are at it.

              You remember that whole toothpaste fiasco from China? They EXECUTED the official responsible for letting that slip by. Not fined, jailed, or sentenced to community
              • by SL Baur (19540)

                You remember that whole toothpaste fiasco from China? They EXECUTED the official responsible for letting that slip by. Not fined, jailed, or sentenced to community service for not 'catching' pad product being exported - they ended his life. You know how much press that got in the US? Dick. Why?

                Yes, I do. I think you're wrong on the `why' part though. How popular of a decision do you think that was with US lawmakers (if they thought it might apply to them)?

                We hold parents responsible for the death of their children if they use bad judgment that results in the child's death, government insists on becoming a parent to everyone, you connect the dots ...

                • but the USA did NOTHING to the importers of the stuff.. the guys that are legally responsible in the USA to ensure their products comply with USA safety rules. All the corrupted goods should have some importer/broker/exec in jail over here, but there's nothing done... not a peep.. just a bunch of noise on the news. But it's all under the "corporate veil" so the USA won't do anything...it's just paperwork.
              • by kova66 (1015131)
                Zheng Xiaoyu [wikipedia.org] executed for corruption
              • by Kadin2048 (468275) *

                You remember that whole toothpaste fiasco from China? They EXECUTED the official responsible for letting that slip by. Not fined, jailed, or sentenced to community service for not 'catching' pad product being exported - they ended his life. You know how much press that got in the US? Dick. Why? Because people and politicians don't WANT to recognize what we are supporting by doing business over there (not to mention the MILLIONS of factory jobs we've shipped off - GFG - wonder who THAT makes rich, aye?)

                Actually, I think executing that guy was probably the only redeeming thing they've done over there in a while. We could do well to import a little more of that kind of "strict liability," instead of just the tons of plastic crap. There's quite a few people on this side of the pond I'd like to see with a rope around their neck for their incompetence.

                I'm no fan of the PRC, but every time I hear about some embezzling official taking the quick way down from an office-tower window, my heart warms just a little

          • by jamar0303 (896820)
            I personally think that would be for the better.
        • by jlarocco (851450)

          That cat's already out of the bag. You can't criticize big businesses for trading in China, and then drive to your local chain store and buy a bunch of cheap crap made in China. Or maybe I have it wrong, and your the one guy who manages to completely avoid anything made in China.

          China's government is terrible, but that's really not our problem.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mabhatter654 (561290)
        then the issue becomes will the US govt protect US citizen employees in other countries? Is the Congress willing to hire out the army out to ANY company following US law or just their favorites? That was the Yahoo issue. The Chinese govt had threatened Yahoo's Chinese employees with prison if Yahoo USA didn't cough up the info. Look at how the DOJ handled the Pirate Bay or UK citizen kidnapping trouble to see that the USA does EXACTLY the same thing when they want to enforce US laws in OTHER countries.

        On
    • Re:No kidding? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sunburnt (890890) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @08:39AM (#21623451)

      That law may be a good idea, but it drastically cripples American companies' ability to profit from, and provide revenue to, oppressive violators of human rights. There, fixed that for you. Of course, if you want to make an argument that such is the legitimate business of American corporations...I'll probably just be unsurprised.
    • by iminplaya (723125)
      This is a guy who voted for the patriot act (twice!) AND the Iraq war. I don't consider him to be a real lover of freedom. Sounds like political expediency to me.
    • They should have picked a mid-level politician and made up evidence that it was him. That way they'd appear to be complying with the unjust law while also kicking a politician in the nadgers at the same time. No downside!
  • Yes, but.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Ribbon (986353) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @07:39AM (#21623193) Journal
    The US ISPs also frequently co-operate with the US authorities, whose attitude towards people's online rights is hardly respectable.
    • by QuickFox (311231)
      They should be fined if they cooperate with any government, foreign or domestic.
  • Why not also fine foreign companies that operate in the US for the same behavior?
  • This smacks of the US government trying to circuitously put economic sanctions on China because of it's human rights issues, without going through the proper international channels. In the end, all it's going to do is damage US business - China won't even notice if these companies go away, they have their own solutions for the same problems.

    Trying to legislate against another country's laws sounds like a terrible idea on paper, and it doesn't promise much more in practice either.
  • by Richard Steiner (1585) <rsteiner@visi.com> on Saturday December 08, 2007 @08:02AM (#21623281) Homepage Journal
    Or Google?? Or Microsoft??

    An ISP provides access to the net, not just web services.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuickFox (311231)
      You know, that's odd, an Internet Service Provider is a company that provides access to the Internet. A company that provides an online service is not called an Internet Service Provider.

      Why don't we say IAP, Internet Access Provider, instead of ISP?

      Very illogical.
      • back in the early 90's, the ISP did it all. When Yahoo and Hotmail came along, then slowly, the ISPs dropped service and just focused on access. But like hacker/cracker, perhaps it is time to change the lexicon.
      • by TeknoHog (164938)
        Providing access is a service. In meatspace, in the big blue room, people are running all kinds of services without running executables that end in 'd'.
        • by David_W (35680)

          In meatspace, in the big blue room, people are running all kinds of services without running executables that end in 'd'.

          What, you mean like sendmail?

      • Historically, the ISP provided basic internet access, but it also provided e-mail services, telnet services, FTP services, and eventually web, ssh, and other services to its users. Some provided (and still provide) a vast array of other services to their customers.

        It wasn't just "access" even in the early days.

        Besides, ISP is an entrenched term with an established meaning, and it makes perfect sense if you take into account what the entities referred to as ISPs are actually providing, at least in the gener
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      Yeah, and since when did a journal entry (by twitter^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Erris no less) about a single, standard editorial from another publication, make front page?
    • by salimma (115327)
      It says a lot about Slashdot editors and contributors that the mistake was made on the Slashdot side.. TFA did not mention ISPs at all.
  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @08:06AM (#21623305) Journal
    As a relativist, I believe it's Yahoo's right to choose whether or not to cooperate with the Chinese government. I believe it's perfectly fine for them to respect the local customs, even if we consider them repulsive over here. Corporations may be based in different countries, but they are truly international identities. They also possess no morality other than pleasing their shareholders, and I feel they have no obligation to initiate confrontation with different countries, all because they happen to be mimicking your morality where it doesn't (yet) fit. In fact, I would say they have just as much right to start censoring information in the US as they do subverting the Chinese censorship systems.

    Of course, as a relativist, no-one respects my opinions. Take 'em or leave 'em.
    • by Thomas M Hughes (463951) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @09:31AM (#21623725)

      As a relativist, I believe it's Yahoo's right to choose whether or not to cooperate with the Chinese government.


      The word "right" is an absolutist word. Relativists coherently can't believe in rights, as the word "right" implies a standard of correctness outside of one's own perspective. The best you can do, as a relativist who wishes to remain coherent, is to say "I think Yahoo can do whatever it wants." And Congress can then reply "I don't think it can!" And because you're a relativist, you've got no way to mitigate these two claims, because you certainly don't have access to the language of "rights."

      I suppose you could just have no desire to be coherent. But if you're incoherent, you shouldn't really be too surprised when people don't respect your opinions.
      • by bendodge (998616)
        Hehe, that made my day!
      • I'm perfectly coherent. I believe it is their right. I also accept that my beliefs are only valid from my perspective. So I'm not really surprised that people don't respect my opinions anyway.

        Besides, does it really matter what jargon I used?
    • by dcollins (135727) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @10:33AM (#21624117) Homepage
      "Corporations may be based in different countries, but they are truly international identities. They also possess no morality other than pleasing their shareholders..."

      Right there, you've constructed the perfect argument in favor of this law. If they have no morality, then we must pass laws forcing them to be constructive members of society in general. Only by levying massive fines, and leveraging their amoral need to "please their shareholders", can we force them to be good citizens.

      Once upon a time, corporations were required, as part of their state charter, to serve the greater good; if they failed to do so, their corporate charter could be terminated. A series of legal judgements removed that as an option, but I would certainly be in favor of bringing that back. See references to H. Glasbeak and Noam Chomsky here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation [wikipedia.org]
      • by bogjobber (880402)

        You're correct about laws and regulations being the only way to influence the behavior of corporations, but how far are you willing to take that? China is a sovereign country. The US government has absolutely no right to determine how companies act under a separate, sovereign state's law. Yahoo, while working in China, is a Chinese company and must obey Chinese laws. I think it would be dangerous to set a precedent where corporations would be exerting the influence of their home government.

        Would you b

        • by dcollins (135727)
          "Would you be fine with Chinese companies pushing their beliefs on us?"

          I would be completely, perfectly fine with companies having to choose whether they do business in China, or the U.S., and not both. That is, having laws that make companies serving China's government incompatible with business in the U.S is ok by me.

          As always, I would much rather have the U.S. electorate be able to vote on what corporate behavior they want in their country, than being at the mercy of either totalitarian foreign governmen
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bogjobber (880402)

            I would be completely, perfectly fine with companies having to choose whether they do business in China, or the U.S., and not both. That is, having laws that make companies serving China's government incompatible with business in the U.S is ok by me.

            The only thing that would produce would be extreme isolationism and poverty for the US. If we essentially ended all trade with nations that have oppressive governments, we would cut off most of the world (including most of our oil suppliers, among other thi

            • by dcollins (135727)
              "Could you imagine, on the other side, countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Indonesia refusing to trade with us because we are not Muslim? Or Latin American countries refusing to trade with us because we are not Catholic? Or Europe refusing to trade with us because we don't have national health care? That entire idea is ludicrous... It's not our responsibility to force our ideas on those that don't want them."

              All of that sounds absolutely excellent to me. Again, the alternative is to submit to a comple
      • by yusing (216625)
        I've no problem differentiating moral from amoral. And I certainly don't like much of what happens in China ... even though I have little choice but to be their customer much of the time.

        But what's moral? Within any time in any particular culture, there may be a consensus on that question. But consensus varies within any culture over time, and varies from culture to culture. Criticism of someone else's morality is presumptive of a demonstrated capacity to do better -- to provide a guiding example. Otherwise
    • by sjames (1099)

      As a relativist, I believe it's Yahoo's right to choose whether or not to cooperate with the Chinese government.

      Corporate charters in the U.S. are allegedly granted contingant on being in the public interest. If the public here doesn't believe that supporting the suppression of political dissent is in their best interests, do they not have a right to revoke the charter? If indeed, they may determine that Yahoo may not exist at all in the U.S. isn't it reasonable that they may also choose a lesser sancti

    • by BeanThere (28381)
      Corporations do not "possess no morality", they are at the very least obligated to respect the laws of the countries they operate in, which is to say, there is a huge amount of "morality" imposed on them. This makes sense. If you're saying you believe that corporations should be allowed to be above the law, then you're just saying that certain people (since companies are just owned by people) should be allowed to be above the law. If you believe that's OK, then you're essentially saying you believe it's OK
      • Corporations do not "possess no morality", they are at the very least obligated to respect the laws of the countries they operate in, which is to say, there is a huge amount of "morality" imposed on them.

        You misunderstood me. They inherently possess no morality (other than the shareholders), but they can take on the morality imposed by law. They do it in western countries, and they do it in China. I'm saying that I think the companies shouldn't necessarily obey the westerners when they tell them to refuse t

        • by BeanThere (28381)
          So you mean if, say, a US law attempted to illegalise behaviour in a foreign country that isn't illegal in that foreign country, and the company operated in both countries, it should be able to choose to ignore that law? Or do you mean, US law shouldn't be 'allowed' to cover activities of (American or not) companies on foreign soil in the first place? I'm sure the Chinese government probably would attempt to impose their own morality on subsidiaries of Chinese companies operating in the US - e.g. Chinese ba
          • If the US tried to pass such a law, I'd be against it. It's bad enough trying to legislate morality without trying to legislate it on foreigners. As to whether Yahoo should obey it, I'd say it should, or get out of the US. If China passed a vice-versa law, same deal. It makes perfect sense.
  • No such thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Truekaiser (724672)
    No such thing as a $country company, they are trans-national. if the country where their headquarters passes a law they don't like dispite their lobbing efforts to stop it they will just move their headquaters to another country.
    • Did everyone think globalization was simply about exchanging shiny, cheaper, manufactured items?

      No; it was about ultimate alignment of all of these other harder, more difficult and intangible things like values, whatever.

      Economics may bring the pressure to do so, but no one said it is enough or that it won't be painful along the way.

      When are those who pushed for loose, blind globalization going to have to eat their own dog food?

      It has yet to be seen, but coming, I think.
  • "Freedom of speech" is not freedom of speech if its conditional. And its still illegal to commit libel and wrong to lie.

    To support genuine freedom of speech is to support anonymous remailers where such genuine information can be communicated with safety.
    But such systems are then attacked by those who abuse such systems with spam, libel and other dishonest intents.

    Everyone wants to limit spam, including China.

    So who is really to blame for suppression here?

    Those who are not honest and won't shut up with their
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Freedom of Speech is the First Defense against Tyranny

      Tyranny is the unrestricted or arbitrary use of power and is preferred by thugs of every feather.

      when people are arrested for simply saying they don't like their government, then that is a bad thing. especially if some of them are then executed so their organs can be "harvested" ( sold to selected "important" people )

      I think the hardest part of defending freedom is in accepting the extent of evil that develops if unchecked.

      the freedom of speech that ha
      • by 3seas (184403)
        There should be a difference between freedom of speech and dishonesty speaking.

        Do you know how stupid it sounds that one random person speaks up against their government and then is executed for organ harvesting for someone important?
        Whats the odds of a genetic enough match?

        China worked with americans to get starving people out of north korea. Why? Because Americans don't look korean enough to do it themselves.

        Tienanmen square. What was worse than that? What happened in Mexico the year the Olympics was ther
        • you will always have to determine for yourself what to trust and what to reject the wider and more varied your experience the better you will be able to do this
    • by foobsr (693224)
      Easier said than done.... and thats Honest.

      Probably depends on which stage of moral development (sensu KOHLBERG [plts.edu]) society tries to 'enforce'.

      Summary
      At stage 1 children think of what is right as that which authority says is right. Doing the right thing is obeying authority and avoiding punishment. At stage 2, children are no longer so impressed by any single authority; they see that there are different sides to any issue. Since everything is relative, one is free to pursue one's own interests, althou
  • So Yahoo et al are handing over information about people leaving the person open to persecution, and now the government is taking them to task over this.

    I assume the same government will also be attacking ISPs who hand over people's information to corporations, leaving the people open to persecution. Or is there some corruption going on that would prevent this?

    • So Yahoo et al are handing over information about people leaving the person open to persecution, and now one person is suggesting a law that he know won't get passed so he can put "cares about your privacy" in his commercials next time reelection day comes around.


      Fixed.
  • What online freedom? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eebra82 (907996) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @08:21AM (#21623373) Homepage
    In Europe and the United States, we've seen the governments meddling with online freedom over and over again. For example, France is soon voting on a law that would force ISPs to shut down users who download copyrighted material. And then there's our own White House's Safe Port Act that forces financial institutions to shut down its operations to gambling sites. What's more bizarre is that some congressmen want the ISPs to regulate it; block "illegal" sites by banning the IP adresses. In Sweden they had party members who wanted ISPs to hand out IP adresses of users.
    • by wytcld (179112)
      Granting all that, if we can get our press and to condemn China for it, it will be more embarrassing for them to do too much of it, too blatantly, themselves.
    • by scruffy (29773)
      What are you saying?

      Except for copyright, pornography, surveillance, phone-home software, the US is a a beacon of online freedom.
  • Good. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by headkase (533448) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @08:32AM (#21623417)
    This is welcome in that it a step towards enforcing Universal Rights by our value system not rules to interpret of anothers. Universal Rights are something we fought hard for here and on principle alone we should not compromise them elsewhere because they aren't enlightened (from my perspective) enough yet.
    • by jez9999 (618189)
      This is welcome in that it a step towards enforcing Universal Rights by our value system not rules to interpret of anothers.

      I'm sorry, but... what??
  • Screw China! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by db32 (862117) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @08:58AM (#21623535) Journal
    Why can't we get a law passed that says companies can't do that here?! I mean seriously, not to be cold, but I don't give a crap about Yahoo or anyone turning over data on chinese dissidents to chinese authorities when there is nothing stoping them from turning over the data on US dissidents to US authorities. Christ, they are even trying to grant the telcos immunity for doing that here in the US while trying to prevent it in china. WTF? Can I please get a little more concern for the rights, privacy, and freedom of our own damned citizens before we go off pretending to be dudly do right elsewhere? This world police shit is what keeps getting us in trouble in the first place.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      Can I please get a little more concern for the rights, privacy, and freedom of our own damned citizens before we go off pretending to be dudly do right elsewhere?

      First off, it's a complete logical fallacy to claim that we shouldn't do X because Y isn't perfect. Nothing prevents both from happening, independent of each other.

      Secondly, I'd like you to try that statement with other subjects, and see how good it sounds. eg. "Can I please get a little more food, before we go off sending aide to Africa?" "Can

      • by db32 (862117)
        Nice try.

        1. Can I get more (something we are having a shortage of) before we sent it to (some other place). Is nowhere near the same as the two emotional examples you tried to equate what I said to.

        2. That is funny. While I agree that what many US companies are doing overseas is abhorrent, I was pretty sure the bombing countries into the stone age on a "Crusade" with little justification and supporting terrorists and the like is what gave us the bad image. I mean, I always assumed the deals like Ira
    • by ari wins (1016630)
      Awesome angle! I would Tivo C-span if I had the chance to see Yahoo use your argument while speaking to Congress.
    • by steelfood (895457)
      Agreed. The US is so busy trying to police the rest of the world...

      All of this, between the lead-based paints, tainted food, etc. is propaganda, ploys by the US government to divert attention from their own inadequacies, to divert our attention from their own wrongdoings by selling out to the highest bidder. It is the beginnings of the anti-China PR, preparation for when China surpasses the US as an economic powerhouse and rends the US irrelevant in the global community. This way, the US populace will agree
  • ThoughtCrime (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RickHunter (103108) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @09:27AM (#21623701)

    But of course, American companies that hand over information about their customers to domestic governments that suppress online dissent are just doing their patriotic duty, and do not in any way, shape, or form need to be investigated or prosecuted. In fact, let's give them explicit legal protection!

    I can has "double standard"?

  • by QCompson (675963) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @09:33AM (#21623733)
    Where is the outcry when ISP's and the government restrict communication in the U.S.?

    Everyone is up in arms about Yahoo cooperating with the Chinese government, but Yahoo and other companies bend over backwards to help the U.S. Government, often with nary a question. The telecom's cooperation with the NSA with the warrantless wiretapping of citizens is an obvious example (and there the Times did an admirable job getting the word out), but as most on Slashdot realize, there are two magic phrases which suddenly causes First Amendment amnesia... terrorism and child pornography. Mention one of those terms and you'll have Yahoo employees jumping through hoops of fire to hand you customer records, regardless of how substantiated the claim may be.

    I don't remember the NYTimes writing an editorial admonishing AT&T for deciding to "filter" their network for copyrighted material.

    People often ignore freedom of speech abuses in the U.S. because we have the First Amendment. Therefore, freedom of speech is guaranteed... right? But China's constitution guarantees the freedom of speech as well (article 35). You can't just deny that your house is burning down because you have a piece of paper that guarantees it's fireproof.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @09:43AM (#21623819) Homepage
    I mean, depending on how you look at it, I think "repressive" could also fit in the good ole USA...
  • [sarcasm]Doubtlessly, it's a lot better for China if the Chinese kick out Yahoo and Google for non-compliance and then go ahead and create their own government controlled alternatives![/sarcasm]
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @10:15AM (#21624009) Homepage Journal
    If only the NY Times were saying anything about the "SAFE Act" [cbs4denver.com], that the House just passed to force all ISPs to take responsibility for all content they host or transport, even if they don't moderate it, in direct contradiction of the landmark CDA [wikipedia.org] which let ISPs be like telcos always have. Lots of child molesters trap children in telephone conversations, but the telco has no liability, because holding them responsible requires tapping every conversation, which is what the SAFE Act (not the one with the same name that sanely deregulated crypto export) now does: forces ISPs to monitor and analyze the content of your every Internet communication. But the Times has said nothing [google.com].
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
      Not so insightful...

      It turns out that the SAFE Act doesn't require ISPs to monitor [slashdot.org]. It just says any monitoring that turns up child porn has to report it. Which is still anti-American, forcing neighbors to report on each other to the cops, but since these "neighbors" are ISPs which don't report stuff like this at the rate that real neighbors would do voluntarily, it's an ethical conundrum.

      If the government investigated the reports by looking more carefully at the reported transactions, without disturbing an
  • I think the US imperialistic tendencies are seeping out.
    Like Britain(India, Ireland), they are convinced that they know better then the rest of the world.
    The US is happy legislating its morality. As long as you have the US as the only super power, it truly is the west against everyone else. In the US they arrested and jailed the owners of a 3 day old online-poker law.
    The US decided that even Credit Card companies that are making payments to these 'scum of the earth' would be held liable. Even after
  • Hey folks. Can someone clarify this for me. I didn't know that Yahoo was an ISP at all--just a search engine and portal.

    Do they actually provide internet access in the US?
    • by azenpunk (1080949)
      they teamed up with SBC when it was around. not sure if Yahoo is still involved now that it's AT&T
  • What about this case - http://www.indymedia.org/fbi/ [indymedia.org] - or is it okay when it's friends in the war on terror?
  • Why the blatant hypocrisy? You've got corporations falling out of their chairs trying to outsource everything they possibly can to [large asian nation with only one uber controlling political party known to have murdered millions of their own people] with a pretty dismal and long running bleak human rights record. So it's OK for these other corporations to make money hand over fist "cooperating with the regime", but if ISPs/ web based content providers do it it needs some special laws? How about a binary Yo
  • The NYT might well not like ISPs decisions. They think certain freedoms are important and others must enforce them. However, the NYT is not always so liberal and supports gun control even though it is unconstitutional in the US. Obviously, the NYT doesn't think gun freedom important.

    This becomes a question of values, and how far to exert extraterritoriality. What freedoms are truly unalienable? Freedom from torture likely is, gun freedom likely is not. In between there is an area for individual and na

  • Sharing user info with the US Government: okay. Sharing user info with other governments: not okay.

    Paying US workers less than a living wage: not okay. Paying other nation's workers less a living wage: okay.

  • It would be hypothetically interesting if the USA were to pass some law fining its companies for hiring people in other countries under the USA minimum wage or bypassing other laws while operating outside the country rather than only violating privacy. Fining people or corps for breaking US laws while not operating in the US sets up precedent where these things may become issues.
  • There are other repressive countries in that region ready to retool into the next Sweatshop Country. Nothing like a law that makes compliance the only viable path to get the job done without sacrificing national sovereignty and/or humanity.
  • by di0s (582680)

    "...Yahoo is not the only American company helping the Chinese government repress its people ..."

    Don't we all do that as consumers when we buy Chinese products? If you think the living standards of most of the Chinese has improved, think again [cnn.com].

    I think the fatal mistake made by the U.S. Government is to assume that as the fortunes of the country improve, so will the hunger for democracy. Couldn't be more wrong. There was a great article in Time that interviewed a few Chinese in their early 20's and for the most part, so long as they could keep consuming stuff, they could care less about their freedo

    • by MulluskO (305219)

      Couldn't be more wrong
      Men as great as Milton Friedman have argued to the contrary. It's worked in South America, and I think it can work elsewhere.
  • It has been very fashionable in recent years to pretend that we in the West are so high and mighty with our impeccable moral, freedom and democracy. And maybe we ARE better than the Chinese or whoever we are morally outraged over this week; but if so, then starting up the usual howling concert is not going to make things better for anybody, neither them nor us. If we want people to listen to criticism, we first have to be their friends in some sense - if we are enemies, they will just stick the finger up at

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