Friday, January 27, 2006

Need Counter Help

I got an idea from the comment made by TheForester in my last post.

As of today, January 27, 2006, Shi Tao has been imprisoned for 272 days. He has 3378 days in prison to go before he is freed.

If someone can help me attach a counter to Shi Tao's picture, with some text explaining what the counter is, you would officially reach *rock star* status.

Can anyone do this, or explain to me how?

Boycotts Don't Start With Someone Else

I got a nice e-mail from "The Analyst," who is also calling for a boycott of all three ISPs who are censoring the web in China. He links to this article which I find quite interesting. The Bloomberg journalist paints a broad picture of the problem of censorship--one which I generally agree with. The title of the blog, however, says that the "Chinese Should Boycott Microsoft and Yahoo."

Take note that in the world of journalism, the authors are not always the same people who write the headlines of their own articles. So Mr. Pesek may not have written that headline, and the contents of the article say "I'd like to see the country's consumers boycott Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and others." There may be a disconnect between what the author intended and his headline.

But the bottom line is this: there should be no qualifier of who should boycott. Everyone, everywhere should boycott Yahoo! (and possibly MSN now), because the internet has no borders. We are all citizens of the internet (aka: "netizens") and furthermore, we all vote with our dollars and our choice of products.

To call upon the Chinese to Boycott is to say the issue is not important to you right here, right now.

More Google Support

This BBC journalist is standing behind Google. He adds some additional reasons why Google's move in China was justified.

It had not occured to me that American laws may have penalized Google for not going in to China.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Silver Lining?

Yes, it's a black day for China since Google announced it would self-censor search results in order to make Beijing happy.

Bloggers around the world, myself included, have dog-piled the criticism onto the ISP provider. But after a good night's sleep and further research into this news, there are a few glimmers of hope.

The first is actually a pyrrhic victory--specifically for BooYahoo! Namely, Google has agreed to Beijing's demands on censorship, but has withheld its e-mail, messaging, and blogging services "because of concerns the government could demand users' personal information." This scores points for Google, as those services represent a major portion of their offerings, and will hurt their market share in China considerably.

Furthermore, when a Google-search is censored, the search results will allegedly indicate that the topic is restricted. This is, in another small way, a fairly respectable compromise. When a user searches for "Taiwan independance," the results will inform the user that their government has restricted them from getting any information on that topic--but that more information is out there. The Chinese are just as enterprising as anyone, and nothing makes me more curious than a topic that I'm not supposed to find out about.

So, I'm reeling in my criticisms of late last night. I will wait and see, with my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google Flip-Floogle

As news of Google's capitulation with China darkens my mood. I find semi-sweet relief in finding that the US Government may step in.

Google's bowing to the Chinese makes it apparent that their "Highly pricipled" approach to doing business was the worst kind of hypocricy. It was just marketing spin. This makes it all-too appropriate for their race for cash to be possibly curtailed by the kings of spin: the US Government.

They could have policed themselves ... but businesses are like kids. They can't resist the cookie jar.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How to Oppress a Nation and Still Pretend to Be Free

A hat-tip to Ontario Empoblog for this scoop. He ironically found this article while querying the word "freedom."

China is "cracking down on spam, viruses, and organized bawdry* online activities." To get there, they are legislating police supervision of all internet service providers. Not surprising.

I couldn't help but chuckle at the following sentence:
"The regulation also states that any online safeguarding technique should not be used to infringe upon the individuals' freedom and privacy and at least two members of the police should be at scene when inspecting suspects.
The Chinese are apparently becoming slightly aware of their image, but their attempt to inoculate against it is about as sophisticated as an episode of T.J. Hooker.

Sadly, this is more of the same regarding the Chinese aggression against personal liberties.

*I thought this wasn't a word, but apparently the words bawdy and tawdry got together and birthed bawdry, which means about the same thing.


Yahoo! Inc. demonstrated its commitment to excellence yesterday by its bold proclamation to be #2.

"It's not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search." Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker said in an interview. Basically, Yahoo is placing flowers at the feet of Google.

To boost future revenues, Yahoo! plans to beef up its "pay for advertising click" scheme. This scheme was deftly criticized in this month's Wired magazine.

Decker went on to give its shareholders the proverbial tin blanket of hope: "We have held our own," Decker said in the interview after the company reported earnings last week.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A New Level of Boycott

After sending a note of thanks to Jesus' General, I got a reply with this in the signature:

***Due to Yahoo!'s complicity in the jailing of Chinese dissidents I WILL NOT ACCEPT EMAIL FROM YAHOO! ACCOUNTS*** For more information about Yahoo!'s work with the Chinese State Security Services, please

For those of you with control over your e-mail servers, this is an even better way to boycott Yahoo!'s services. I'm trying to get my current mail service to do this. I'm not sure if it can be done yet.

Furthermore, I'd like to note that Jesus' General's mention of this blog led to more hits than its appearance in the New York Times. Impressive!

[Edited: I forgot to link to the General! Sorry, sir!]

Daily Update

The battle rages on between Google and the Justice Department.

Google has the dubious honor of owning and maintaining the largest database in the world--a database holding every search request ever made by its customers. Google is doing the right thing by fighting the feds, as this data (contrary to Yahoo!'s opinion) will reveal personal information. The reason Google has this info is to do their job more competitively. Should Google be forced to turn it over, they should destroy it instead. We'll see what happens.

In Other News

Jesus General has written an insightful letter to Yahoo! in his inimitable style. Mr. General, I salute you! Be sure to read the comments of the General's posting. There are some very humorous bits in there!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

On Point

While channel surfing on XM Radio, I chose my usual XM Public Radio. I heard about 5 words being spoken by a male with a French accent, talking about internet freedom. I knew right away that it had to be Julien Pain. I was right.

Good job Julien, with your appearance on "On Point" Friday night. You were on during traffic hours in Los Angeles, so you probably had lots of listeners here.

The show was asking the question, "Is the internet a tool promoting freedom, or is it just progressing the status quo?"

What an excellent question.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Search Requests Contain Personal Info

As I suspected, an expert has come out and stated that the information requested by the US Government is a privacy issue.

In the article found here (you must go to page 2), "Pam Dixon, executive director for the World Privacy Forum, warned that the content of search requests sometimes contain information about the person making the query, such as names, medical profiles or Social Security information."

(From their website: "The World Privacy Forum is a nonprofit, non partisan organization focused on conducting in-depth research and consumer education in the intersecting areas of technology and privacy." They have offered up some excellent Search Engine Privacy Tips here.)

So on one side of this argument we have the US Justice Department and Yahoo! Yahoo! just turned over millions of their users' private information over to the US Justice Department, during a time when that organization is a "rigorous defender" of the White House's habit of performing illegal wire taps on US citizens. Yahoo! claims this is not a privacy issue, when they have a notorious disregard for their customer's privacy. Yahoo! is also struggling financially in the face of Google's growth. This side of the argument is relying on rhetoric, and hoping the listeners are not members of the "reality based community."

On the other side of the argument you have Google, who is dominating the market, and entering into a legal battle with a government agency that does not often get such a response. They are not relying on rhetoric; they are simply doing the right thing.

BooYahoo! is not outright endorsing Google yet, but I'm getting damn close ...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Google v. US Justice Department

Google has just been sued by the Justice department because they refused to turn over information that the government wants to "monitor sexually explicit material on the web."

The Justice Department is making this move under the guise of the "Child Online Protection Act." Google did not comply because "providing the data [would] disclose personally identifiable information about its users.

"In response, the government said it would keep the data secret and that the request wasn't for personal information."

Google's response was to still not comply.

Yahoo! chimed in, with the following unintentionally hilarious quote. "We are rigorous defenders of our users' privacy," said Mary Osaka, a spokesperson for Yahoo!. "We did not provide any personal information in response to the Department of Justice's subpoena. In our opinion this is not a privacy issue."

Really Mary? Are you sure? If you were rigorously defending your users' privacy, you sure did roll over a lot faster to the Justice Department than did Google, who makes no such claims to being a "knight of privacy."

Google is starting to look like the actual knights of privacy here ...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Julien Pain of "Reporters Without Borders" wearing the new BooYahoo! Tee Shirt.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Another Petition

Julien Pain of "Reporters Without Borders" has asked me to help gain support of their petition regarding the recommendations, below. I'm happy to comply.

Please note! This petition is in French! Fear not, however, as this process is still very simple. First, read my post below to make sure you agree with the initiative, and would like to help support it. (More details are in the link below if you want them.)

If you would like to participate, go to

In the field next to "Votre nom ou pseudo," type your name.
In the field next to "Votre adresse email," type your e-mail address.
Below that, in the field next to "Nom de votre site Web," type the name of your website, if you have one.
In the field next to "Adresse de votre site" (it has an http:// in it), type the URL of your website, if you have one.

Then you will get an e-mail (also in French), which is intended to validate your signature. Make sure you click on the link at the bottom of the e-mail to verify.

Thanks for signing! This is a very exciting initiative. Everyone signature helps.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Reporters Without Borders Takes Action

Reporters Without Borders has initiated action with the United States, asking them to take action that would ensure freedom of expression on the internet.

I’m very happy with how they are proposing we resolve the issue. They are using a two-phased approach. Initially, RWB is asking the US Government to urge Internet corporations (which all happen to be US-based companies), to reach an agreement among themselves on a more evolved code of conduct. Barring the success of this, they are recommending the “last resort,” which is for the US to draft the following into law: (The following is an abridged version of the information provided by RWB on their site.)

1. No US company would be allowed to host e-mail servers within a repressive country*. So, if the authorities of a repressive country want personal information about the user of a US company’s e-mail service, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised by US.

2. Search engines would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” words. The list of “protected” keywords such as “democracy” or “human rights” should be appended to the law or code of conduct.

3. US companies would not be allowed to locate their host servers within repressive countries. If the authorities of a repressive country desire the closure of a publication hosted by a US company, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised by the US judicial authorities. Like search engines, content hosts would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” key-words.

4. (Option a) US companies would no longer be permitted to sell Internet censorship software to repressive states.

4. (Option b) They would still be able to market this type of software but it will have to incorporate a list of “protected” keywords that are rendered technically impossible to censor.

5. US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of Commerce in order to sell to a repressive country any technology or equipment which can be used to intercept electronic communications or which is specifically designed to assist the authorities in monitoring Internet users.

6. US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of Commerce before providing any programme of training in Internet surveillance and censorship techniques in a repressive country.

* A list of countries that repress freedom of expression would be drawn up on the basis of documents provided by the US State Department and would be appended to the code of conduct or law that is adopted. This list would be regularly updated.

Note : The purpose of these recommendations is to protect freedom of expression. They in no way aim to restrict the necessary cooperation between governments in their efforts to combat terrorism, paedophilia and cyber-crime.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

And MSN too?

MSN is now enthusiastically playing ball with Chinese in censoring blogs. This story has just developed.

I will be rethinking about what action to take on this. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 02, 2006