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tv   The Communicators  CSPAN  May 28, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT

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all of those companies are required by the government to police not only porn or copyright stuff, which companies here have to do, but also a whole range of political content. they get regular instruction from the authorities, and if they do not do a good job of keeping that stuff off their sites, they can lose their business license. if they do a very good job, they get rewarded. one of the rewards is the self discipline award. >> ucits on the internet society? >> the internet site -- who sits on the internet society? >> it is officially and non- governmental organization, but it is actually very closely aligned with the government. the chairman of computer science is is actually -- you know -- is
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not going to do anything that the government does not want done. >> how to get into the issue of chinese censors up -- censorship on the internet? >> diaz to work as a journalist in china, so -- i used to work as a journalist in china, so i experienced it first hand. we were trying to use the internet to do our job and finding that we were getting blocked. i experienced it as a user from the very beginning. to make a long story short, i ended up leaving cnn in early 2004 and i was at harvard, and i ended up spending quite a bit of time at a center for the internet in society. i was looking at the rise of citizen media and blogging all around the world, how this is challenging journalism,
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challenging government, looking at it as a global phenomenon, but because i had a background in china -- i speak chinese and read chinese -- i quickly became fascinated with what happens in china. on the one hand, you have an explosion of internet use. you have all kinds of social networking sites. you have a lot of blocking going on. yet at the same time, the government manages it well enough to control people from using the internet to organize an opposition. the way in which they do that is fascinating. so, because i had a language facility and i was sort of starting to become interested -- i wrote one thing, and then people started asking me more things and i would help them with research, give a talk, and and kind of suddenly, before i knew it, i was an expert on chinese internet censorship. >> how do they block a facebook or chinese equivalent to facebook? >> there are several different
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levels of censorship in china. you have facebook itself, right? facebook itself is not based in china. it is on computer servers outside of china. for web sites outside of china, like facebook, what they do is basically instruct the network that when somebody types in www.facebook.com, or some variant thereof, you get an error message or a blank browser. >> they stopped it at the port. >> they stop at the port. that is what happens with withbe, with blockegger, twitter, with hundreds of thousands of web sites -- sometimes just certain pages. they have the ability to catch keywords. there is a lot of stuff blocked at the border, essentially.
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that is just the website outside of china. then you have all of these chinese companies running chinese versions -- facebook ones, youtube clones, whatever. they are not being blocked at the border. why block it when you can just take it off the internet? if you are a chinese internet company, your computer servers are inside china. you're inside chinese legal jurisdiction. the cops can show up at your facility until you to shut it down if you're not complying. you can say, this particular group on the chinese version of facebook needs to be shut down. these users need to be taken off
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line. this particular blog that needs to be taken down or deactivated can be. i did a test on this recently. a chinese gentleman got the nobel peace prize. a couple of different things happened with that, right? overseas websites that talked about him in the news and him getting the nobel peace prize for of course blocked. you could not access them. >> you could not go to the new york times. >> the new york times in english they are not worried about. they're really worried about the chinese staff. bbc chinese and so on. on the chinese platforms -- let's say i was on the chinese social networking service. took an article
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about him, pasted it in, pushed and i got an error message saying i could not publish the material because it contains sensitive words. certain content you cannot even get on the internet. in other instances, i could get it published, but it would disappear. you would go back to the place it was published and there would be a notice saying, we're sorry but the content you're looking for does not exist. so you have -- i am sorry. i was just -- let me just. the content literally no longer exists in that spot. so basically, you have a situation not just of blocking
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content, but of taking content of the internet completely. >> this is a chinese policy within china, chinese companies. why should we care? >> that is a very good question. i think there are a number of reasons. one is that china is the model really for our government uses private companies as an extension of its power. obviously, it is the most extreme case, but there are a lot of governments who are seeing this and seeking to duplicate it in various ways. it is also something of a cautionary tale about the way in which private intermediaries can be used to manipulate speech and to conduct surveillance, and why
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it is very, very important that this digital later we are all lair we aren now -- mayo all dependent on now for our speech -- and there does need to be some monitoring. there are illegal activities that need to be kept of line. there are reasons why facebook is monitoring their site. but this is an example of people not doing things -- this is an example of government infringing on rights, infringing on their ability to organize politically, and so on. i am by no means equating the united states and china. their system and what they're doing has no basis in consented
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government. but there are concerns that people have in the u.s. and in other democracies about the extent to which there is going to be sufficient due process in the mechanisms we set up. you have democratically elected politicians who are passing laws requiring technical specifications of that we can fight crime, be safe against cyber attack, protect children, protect property. these are all admirable goals, but what kind of system r resetting of? how can it be abused -- are we setting up? how can it be abused if you have a government that is seeking to abuse its power? is the system transparent and accountable enough that you can correct for that? that is a real challenge we have in democracy.
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>> about a year ago you wrote a column for mcclatchy news service. are china's demands for self discipline setting -- spreading to the west? do you see evidence of that? >> there is a lot of debate in the west right now about the extent to which private intermediaries should be held liable for what the users are doing on the site. because part of what goes on in a place like china is that the government sets out rules and then it is left to the companies to decide, i had better take this content down because it might get me in trouble. you have a situation where companies are anticipating whether something may or may not be legal, and they are taking it off. it might not be a violation of the law, but just to be safe, they take it down.
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if you impose too much liability on intermediaries, even for an ostensibly good reason, you have a situation where intermediaries are taking things down that actually have a pretty good case, when taken to court, when challenged, that the person who put it up has the right to express that speech. the concern is about the erosion to advocateability opinions, and to disseminate information that may not be particularly popular, but on the other hand, they have a first amendment right to say this things. -- those things. are we moving toward a situation where intermediaries are making that decision just to be on the safe side before anybody has had a day in court? this is why a lot of people are
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concerned about the amazon case, for instance, or wikileaks, where amazon takes wikileaks of their service board -- perfectly within their legal rights to do that -- in their terms of service. absolutely nothing legally wrong with what they did, but you have a situation again read have a private entity deciding that, well, -- again where you have a private entity deciding that well, this is going to be too much trouble for me. i'm going to dump them now. if most private intermediaries and of doing that with their most controversial clients, then we do have a problem. so again, it is subtle, and one does not want to go too far in trying equal signs at all -- in drawing equal signs at all, but
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there is a continuum of issues. this is a globally interconnected network. you have technical norms and legal norms that are set up in democracies to make sense within the context of a country that has very robust legal systems, very robust protections, but if you take the same technical norms, technical standards and dump them into iran or seller is -- which has been happening, actually. -- or belarus -- which has been happening, actually. these internet connections came with intercepts so that law enforcement can monitor conversations -- which is required in european law.
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basically, it is accessible to most citizens in democracies within the con fines of a legal situation. you take that same technology to iran and you have a very effective surveillance system. this is another problem. we are setting up norms that work in some countries but in other countries they become the default in a world where you cannot count on the government being on the side of the people. >> search engines have gotten quite a bit of criticism about their systems practices in china. should u.s. companies be setting foreign policy? should they not just be following the rules determined by that nation? >> is a difficult question. there are issues related to corporate responsibility that can sometimes get quite murky,
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right? there are people who talk about -- if you take some other industries. for example, you take a mining industry into a repressive regime and the regime says you have to do x, y and z. to what extent should they do that, and to what extent are they facilitating human rights abuses? there are codes of conduct about what companies shall not do despite the fact that the local government wants you to allow their militias to, you know -- or once you to fund their militias. even if that is the law, that is a problem internationally. so, with companies around the world -- i mean, it is a tough
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situation, right? because on the one hand, the internet has brought tremendous change and empowerment to everywhere, and certainly, people in china are much better off with the internet than without it. to say no company should be doing business in china is over simplistic, and i do not support that idea. but i do think companies need to be mindful of how they are going about their business. it is not a matter of being there or not being there. it is about how you are engaging. we had a situation early on where yahoo! went into china and they ended up being the implicit in jailing several dissidents because when the police showed up in their beijing office, if they refused to hand over information, they too would go
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to jail. when google went in, they chose not to offer a chinese version of e-mail. they said, ok, we are not going to host user content within china because we do not want to be in the position of sharing it with the chinese police. we will experiment with the centering of the search engine kind of thing. they tried that for a couple of years and decided they did not want to do that. microsoft is still in there with their search engine. it is not being used by many people. they are trying to split the difference a little bit more in terms of notifying users that censorship is happening and telling the government we are only going to respond to a legally binding requests, not phone calls from the cops. we need a court order, that kind of thing. this needs to be grounded in the rule of law, but it is tough. these are difficult situations
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for businesses, and sometimes it is hard to know what the right thing is to do. i think what we have found with business and human rights, business and social responsibility in other sectors is, look, you know, i could maximize my profits if i hire 12-year-old and feed them ground water, but there are certain social norms for why that is not something i should do. because i am living in a society and over the long run, not only is that the moral thing not to do, of i will process -- but i will process as a business in the long run if i am perceived favorably and doing things that are good for the community. companies in the technology space-bar going to need to think about -- what kind of -- technology space are going to
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need to think about, what kind of internet are we contributing to? if we just goes all -- if we just go along with everything the government wants to do, will that destroyed the value of the internet in the first place? if that gets destroyed because people say, in order to get into the market i have to do this, that and the other, you may end up destroying the value of the thing you are selling, so people definitely do need to think about the long run and also about their users. you know, what you do in one country is going to have an impact on how users trust you in other countries. so, if you're compromising freedom of speech and privacy in one market, people hear about it and then they say, i am not sure if i want to use that service because of such and such that happened in china. >> how do you see the use of
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technology and the advancement of technology in china? >> dina has 450 million internet users -- china now has 450 million internet users. >> a billion and a half population. >> probably a little bigger than that now. so, it is less than half of chinese people online. the do not have the latest figure -- i do not have the latest figure off the top of my head, but the mobile phone use is something like 80%, many times higher. a lot of internet services kind of leverage that. people are mainly using their phone and chat services on the internet.
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there is a lot of growth there. it is a very attractive market. >> as a former journalist with cnn, did you ever have trouble doing a report? did the reports you would send out ever get censored or were you encouraged not to do something? >> that happened on a number of occasions. i was yelled at by the foreign ministry on a number of occasions. my boss got yelled at by the foreign ministry on a few occasions when he visited from headquarters. at one point, they threaten not to renew my visa. a lot of access is contingent on whether you behave. you did not behave, so we will not give you the interview with such and such official. that happens all the time. so, there is a lot of that kind of thing. but i was there at a time -- up
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until the very end when we started being able to send compressed video out through the internet -- most of the time i was there -- because i was there from 1992-2001 -- most of the time, there were three ways to get your video out of china. one was satellite uplink, which is controlled by the government, so if you send anything controversial, they can sensor it. the other way is to fed ex or air freight it to hong kong or to thend a send it -- satellite uplink to atlanta. you're kind of planning in advance. the third was, somebody gets on a plane. up until we got to the point where we could send compressed video through the internet -- valuable,ly was not for a bunch of reasons -- we
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were handing intern's tapes for flights out of hong kong. i was breaking news stories on the satellite because they would shut it down. it was challenging. now you can send a compressed video files through broadband. they control your access to people. people who do not want bj people who they do not want reporters interviewing, -- people who they do not want reporters interviewing, they will put under house arrest. they will prevent you from getting access. >> it sounds like he won a lot of tiny self discipline awards while you are over there. -- it sounds like you 1 a lot of -- won a lot of chinese self
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discipline awards while you're over there. >> [laughter] i did not. >> hong kong has been described as the most open society. >> hong kong and the british made a deal that the legal system would not change for 50 years. they still have free speech possessed -- free speech possession. that is why google moved to hong kong. sites that are banned in china have big operations in hong kong. they have parades and demonstrations on the street every day. as long as they do not violate the law, nobody can do anything about it. there are big pro-democracy demonstrations in hong kong every year. there are dissonance from mainland china living in hong kong. there is that protection.
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the problem is that the media in hong kong is owned primarily by businesses who have business concerns in mainland china. there is a certain amount of self-censorship. different people college different things, and people debate how bad it is -- different people call it a different things, and people debate how bad it is, but a lot of journalists complain that they are told to town it down on certain things. >> finally, what is global voices on line and a global network initiative? >> they are two very different things despite both being called global. global voice as online is an and medianal blockegger
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network. the idea is that there are people all over the world using the internet to talk about all kinds of very interesting things, and when we started in 2004, the idea was, look, there are all these people in the middle east and africa, asia, talking about things happening in their country that the media is now reporting on because the media can only report so much, but it is really hard to find them unless you know where to look. then you'd do not know who is credible. this guy says he is blogging banon.11 on -- less than non how do we know he even lives there? so now we have people translating back and forth, what
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is coming out of the arab region this week, what is going on in the russian blogosphere, the russian internet? we have several people who are following that. it is a way to help people in the english-speaking world get a better handle on the conversations happening on-line globally, and a lot of volunteers are translating back and forth in a lot of different languages. it is a non-profit. then, global network initiative is basically a multi-stakeholder initiatives around free-speech and privacy for the telecommunications sector. the idea was that we got together -- it started coming together back in 2006 after google, yahoo! and microsoft
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were sent to congress to explain what they had been doing in china. some human rights groups and some academics and some other free expression groups -- the center for democracy and technology and others -- began to convene conversations with companies to say look, there need to be some bottom-line principles here that we can all agree on for what companies will and will not do when it comes to a government request for censorship and government demands for surveillance and handing over information and so on. so, over the course of several years, we hashed out principles on free expression and privacy, and google, yahoo! and microsoft signed on and agreed to be evaluated over the extent to which they actually adhere to these things. the first evaluation is going to happen this year. so far, we are hoping that more
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companies will join. it is still early days and i still is a -- i think it is still very much in proof of concept phase. >> if people want to read your riding, where should they go? >> well, rconversation.com or google my name, rebecca mackinnon, and you will get my google feed and everything else. >> thank you. >> thank you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011] >> tamara, a political editor and the founder and editor -- editor anda political rol a founder of think

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