Great Firewall of China

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Jan. 25 2006 6:28 PM

Great Firewall of China

Bloggers are overwhelmingly horrified by Google's decision to censor search queries in China. They're also less than thrilled about Disney's corporate absorption of Pixar, and they are noting the passing of actor Chris Penn.

Great Firewall of China: Google has announced that it is complying with Beijing's demand that Internet users in China be restricted in their access to information—especially the democratic variety—via the mainland portal of the search giant. E-mail messaging and blog-creation features will be abandoned for Google.cn, which hasn't stopped the rest of the world from querying "sell out."

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Matthew Ingram, a tech writer for Canadia's Globe and Mail, writes: "It's obvious that companies such as Google see such activity as part of the cost of doing business in a country like China, and no doubt they would make the argument that if they didn't comply then someone else would. It's still a sad development, however, and it certainly throws into sharp relief how the search company's 'don't be evil' mantra can be modified when necessary to fit the needs of the business."

However, Sarpy Sam at Montana-based blog Thoughts from the Middle of Nowhere wonders, "Did Google not release search results to our government to win points with free speech advocates in advance of their announcement limiting search results in China?"

At the Committee to Protect Bloggers, a blog dedicated to free speech in general and bloggers who are threatened by repressive regimes in particular, Curt Hopkins is quick to spot a sinister double standard: "While Google's refusal to cooperate with a further chilling of free expression in the United States is laudable, and at odds with Yahoo!, Microsoft's MSN and America Online, who have all agreed to cooperate, any ethical ground gained has been forfeited in its latest move."

Reporters Without Borders are equally appalled. In a press release, the censorship watchdog group fulminated, "Freedom of expression isn't a minor principle that can be pushed aside when dealing with a dictatorship. It's a principle recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and features in the Chinese national constitution itself."

Also among the strident opposition is IT blogger Tim Raferty, who surmises free-market competition behind the move:"One of the reasons Google is hobbling its own technology in China is that Google.com is losing ground in the search market in China to Baidu.com—a Chinese search engine due to government censorship on some of Google.com's content. A pre-censored Google.cn should have no such issues."

Edinburgh University student Duncan Stephen, while not happy about Google's decision, wants to know where the outrage was 12 months ago when Microsoft did the same thing: "While I obviously don't think it's pleasent that Google is censoring its results in China, I am actually surprised that they weren't already doing that. Remember a year or so back when MSN banned its Chinese users from using words like 'democracy' on MSN Spaces? This is not new. Google is not setting a precedent."

Read more about Google's China policy.

Monster Inc: The computer-animation studio Pixar has agreed to an all-stock merger with Disney valued at $7.5 billion. Bloggers remain greater fans of the makers of Toy Story than they are of the Mouse that, once again, roars at the competition.

Freelance illustrator Debra Rohlfs complains, "Disney's just making mistake after mistake, and Pixar just made their first mistake by going back under Disney's lock and chain." Pixar shareholder Theme Wuhan is unhappy but hopes for the following outcomes: "That Pixar still gets to act as an independent entity. ... That endless sequels won't ruin Pixar's ability to create great movies. ... That Jobs and Co. know what they are doing. ... That Pixar's creativity invades Disney, and not the other way around."

Politically minded IT consultant Derek at Blue Noise tries to put the deal in perspective: "Well the good news is that John Lasseter, a founding member of Pixar (and director of several of the films they produced) is now the Chief Creative Officer (CCO) of Disney, and Steve Jobs is now on Disney's board of directors. If anyone has the power to start pulling Disney in the right direction, it's their single largest shareholder ..."

"Jane Dough" at Boston Gal's Open Wallet suggests that you "can't put a price a good creative decision," and though she concedes she's a Disney stockholder, her real concern is what this means for the kiddies: "One of my jobs as Auntie to my numerous sibling progeny is to attend the latest animated movie. ... So if this deal means a return to good movie watching fare ala Toy Story then it is worth all those Billions."

Read more about the Disney buyout of Pixar. Daniel Gross weighs in  on the deal in Slate.

'Nice Guy' gone: Chris Penn, the talented character actor from Footloose and Reservoir Dogs and the brother of Sean Penn, was found dead yesterday in his Santa Monica home. Bloggers are saddened by Penn's passing, but also by the actuarial pigeonhole his last name seems to have landed him in.

Zann at the entertainment blog Experiment 301 writes, "RIP to Eddie with the out-of-place clothes in Reservoir Dogs. our audience probably knows him best from that movie, though he's been in other classics such as True Romance, Mullholland Falls, Footloose, and even Corky Romano."

Los Angeles gossip rag Defamer runs through the obits and faults the Times Online, which "couldn't be bothered to squeeze his name into the headline for 'Sean Penn's younger brother found dead.' Nice Guy Eddie deserved better." Though what would any pop-culture tabletalk in a Tarantino script make of the following blog headline at mynameisdita? "Madonna's former brother-in-law found dead."

Read more about Chris Penn's death.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.

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