Bill Gates on the Great (Fire)wall of China: freedom of information is still present, even with censorship.
In a move uncharacteristic of Gates, Microsoft‘s chairman and the world’s richest man seems to have been in defense of Microsoft arch-rival Google, in light of the recent controversy of the search giant’s bowing down to the Chinese government’s terms in entering the China market by filtering out certain websites.
I do think information flow is happening in China … saying that even by existing there contributions to a national dialogue have taken place. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s been a huge plus.
See Google’s statement on the China controversy:
Filtering our search results clearly compromises our mission. Failing to offer Google search at all to a fifth of the world’s population, however, does so far more severely. Whether our critics agree with our decision or not, due to the severe quality problems faced by users trying to access Google.com from within China, this is precisely the choice we believe we faced. By launching Google.cn and making a major ongoing investment in people and infrastructure within China, we intend to change that.
We aren’t happy about what we had to do this week, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information. But how is that full access most likely to be achieved? We are convinced that the Internet, and its continued development through the efforts of companies like Google, will effectively contribute to openness and prosperity in the world. Our continued engagement with China is the best (perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.
So in other words, the world’s biggest tech companies are taking baby steps in improving the flow of information even in the world’s strictest of regimes. China is, indeed, very concerned about its citizens having access to “sensitive” information. Privacy and freedom advocates think that Google has compromised its business ideals of doing “no evil” by agreeing to China’s censorship. But if we want people to have decent access to information at all, then I think perhaps some compromise is necessary.