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Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Internet search engines limit free speech in China

Google and Yahoo – chances are you use one or both of these search engines 50 times per day and don’t even think about it.

But, what would you do if you knew these two search engines stifled free speech?

How would you feel if you knew these companies helped to put journalists who expose human rights abuses in jail?

Chances are if these companies sold shoes and employed workers abroad in sweatshop conditions you’d be outraged and boycott their product.

The options are more limited however when dealing with an Internet search engine that doesn’t produce a tangible product such as shoes.

Americans are proud of their right to free speech. Free speech and other rights are granted to us in our founding documents and they exist to limit the government – and only the government.

Many people believe the right to free speech applies to everyone in the country, but in reality it only prevents the government from silencing free speech.

Beyond that – the people, not the government – wield the power to hold those who control our flow of information responsible for their actions.

Google, Yahoo and even Microsoft have recently gained attention for collaborating with the Chinese government to suppress free speech and dissent.

The media has played little attention to the fact that these three giant corporations are playing along to with the Chinese government to oppress the Chinese people.

Clearly the bottom line here is profit. As P. Diddy so eloquently said, “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

These three corporations aren’t playing an idle role in China, as they are contributing to the government’s oppressive watchdog role.

According to a Newsweek article, Google launched a China-based search engine according to the stipulations the Chinese government set forth. Google in China censors critical political content, news sites and information about Democracy.

Microsoft and Yahoo are following the same lead.

Microsoft recently shut down a dissident blog that encouraged democracy.

It seems though that – from what we know – Yahoo has committed the worst offense of them all.

Yahoo provided information that helped to identify a journalist who was anonymously reporting on human-rights abuses. The information provided by Yahoo, ultimately put the man in jail, and he is currently serving a 10-year sentence for this so-called crime.

With 130 million Internet users, China provides an irresistible market for these companies.

They see they are morally wrong but the corporate bigwigs are blinded by dollar signs.

In a public statement, Google expressed that their presence in China could potentially cure the problem, not reinforce it.

Google said, “Our continued engagement with China is the best (and perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal access to all our users there.”

Microsoft and Yahoo echoed the same sentiments.

Microsoft’s chief counsel, Bill Smith said “One could walk away, but that would also be turning our back on the problem.”

And Yahoo said “”our services have promoted personal expression and enabled far wider access to independent sources of information””

I remember my own frustration with Internet censorship in middle school.

All of the computers at school had censorship software on them to prevent students from looking up porn and other potentially harmful topics that would corrupt our young developing minds.

Although the intentions were good, this software made it virtually impossible to find information.

For example, in doing research for a report I wanted to find the White House Web site. After typing in “White House” in the search field, the search turned up with “no results.”

I knew this couldn’t be true, and in fact censorship was at work here.

As the software scanned the content it found something offensive, and blocked access to the site.

This software, although only slightly annoying, doesn’t even compare to the type of government censorship that goes on in China.

As students, we often take our right to freedom of speech for granted.

On campus students have easy access not only to the Internet, but also to these two search engines.

It’s hard for us to imagine the limited free speech the Chinese are forced to endure.

But for me, the ultimate frustration is what can we do about this?

Through the media, the world came to learn how Nike treated its workers throughout the world. Public outcry was great enough that Nike reformed its policies.

Worker abuse is more tangible than limiting free speech and perhaps this is the reason the outrage has been limited.

It seems we are fighting an invisible enemy.

Large companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft won’t make any changes unless the are motivated by profits.

These companies aren’t interested in upholding their company integrity or free speech. They have no motivations to fight the Chinese government’s barriers.

These companies are purely profit-driven – it’s all about the Benjamins.

Send comments to Erin at [email protected].

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