By Pierre Haski
Wednesday 15 February 2006
We've known for a very long time that no technology in and of itself brings either freedom or oppression. Nonetheless, this illusion has existed since the very beginnings of the Internet, the illusion that allowed us to believe that access to the diversity of information available on the Net would be enough to bring down the last remaining dictatorships. The leaders in Beijing have just proved the contrary by erecting a gigantic Electronic Great Wall of China. In the speed race between an Internet that is effectively a vector of freedom and a cyber-police endowed with the latest technology, the game is far from over. Less expected was that the big Western companies would aid the Chinese government in that effort: simultaneously by procuring for it the technology that equips its cyber-police and allows it to keep tens of millions of Internet users under surveillance and by straight-out supplying the information that allows people to be sent to jail, as well as by censoring themselves according to the desires of the Chinese Communist leaders. The little test we performed on Google and Yahoo search engines in China and in France is revealing in this regard: it would be amusing if it didn't mean quite simply that these giants of the Internet, the names of which have become synonymous with modernity and success, are capable of anything in order to get a share of the Chinese e-cake. A strong reaction in the United States would have been necessary to get these companies to talk about rules of the game. This business concerns us all - as users of this technology and of the services of these omnipresent giants - so every Internet user is not made complicit in the low blows delivered in China.
Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.