Thursday, July 31, 2008

IOC agrees to Internet blocking at the Games - International Herald Tribune

IOC agrees to Internet blocking at the Games - International Herald Tribune:
"BEIJING: The Chinese government confirmed Wednesday what journalists arriving at the lavishly outfitted media center here had suspected: Contrary to previous assurances by Olympic and government officials, the Internet would be censored during the upcoming games.

Since the Olympic Village press center opened Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages - politically sensitive ones that discuss Tibetan succession, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown of the protests in Tiananmen Square and the sites of Amnesty International, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.

On Wednesday - two weeks after its most recent proclamation of an uncensored Internet during the Summer Games - the International Olympic Committee quietly agreed to some of the limitations, according to Kevan Gosper, chairman of the IOC press commission, Reuters reported. ..."
This is a shocking development. Why couldn't the IOC simply have refused to acquiesce in this? The Chinese government will do what it will, but there is absolutely no reason to "agree" to what will be imposed in any case.

The internet has been for most people a source of freedom. Information, ideas, discussions, blogging have all "flattened" the world (as Thomas Friedman would put it) -- but there is a large part of the world where such concepts are repressed. This is ironic to see in a nation which has embraced state-of-the-art networking technology and has a network infrastructure that is significantly ahead of the US and Europe.

Google has cooperated in filtering content into China. Yahoo has provided identifying information that has resulted in at least one internet user going to jail. This is not that the Internet is about.

I have mixed feelings about the Olympics this year. I remember the tit-for-tat boycotts of the Olympics by the USA and USSR in 1980 and 1984 and thinking that it did nothing but use the athletes as proxies in the Cold War. It's a little late to do anything for the 2008 Olympics, but there really need to be clear understandings about what is required when a nation undertakes to host the Olympic Games -- and clear repercussions for failure to deliver.

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