Image credit: Bloomberg View.
Bloomberg staffers obviously aren’t impressed at having their Gmail cut off or their Twitter accounts hacked, the financial newspaper has published a blistering editorial attacking the Chinese government’s censorship regime and calling for Xi Jinping to “Tear down this firewall!”
The genius of what Internet researcher Rebecca MacKinnon calls China’s “networked authoritarianism,” however, is that it focuses on satisfying average users who don’t need or want access to foreign sites, and relies on self-censorship to achieve its goals. To push for change to China’s intranet means finding a way to target Baidu and other domestic providers. Legislative proposals to require U.S.-listed companies such as Baidu to disclose their censorship arrangements to investors make sense if they are tailored in a way that doesn’t swamp an already overburdened Securities and Exchange Commission.
As we have argued about Iran and Syria, we are less enthusiastic about legislating broad new export controls on U.S. Internet technology than about enhancing the effectiveness of voluntary groups such as the Global Network Initiative, which seeks to minimize the potential for censorship and other human- rights abuses while maximizing the span of the Web.
We are skeptical about any proposals for “reforming” Internet governance that China itself may offer at next month’s meeting in Dubai organized by the International Telecommunication Union. That said, the former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman recently predicted that Xi Jinping and his colleagues will inevitably have to re-balance China’s own Internet policies in favor of more openness. That would indeed be harmonious, and we hope he’s right.