Blog Censorship And The Impact On Doing Business In China

    July 5, 2005

The many conversations in recent weeks about blog censorship in China won’t lead to any meaningful conclusions, I reckon.

While the first amendment rights to free speech that many bloggers passionately post about is a US concept (and hardly likely to make inroads in China any time soon), it is something I also strongly believe in. And like many bloggers whose posts I’ve read, I think people in China should be able to talk as openly and freely as I can here in The Netherlands.

Restrictions on personal freedoms of speech in China are tightening even more, though, with bloggers there as a target according to a story in the Financial Times last week:

[…] New rules require all bloggers to register with the government the true name of the site author by June 30 or face their blog being shut down. Web crawlers will be deployed to seek and block unregistered sites. Financial penalties for non-compliance are prohibitive – up to RMB1m ($121,000). Internet service providers will also be held liable for providing hosting services to banned sites.

The FT’s article included some detailed commentary on what such restrictions on personal expression could mean for foreign companies doing business in China:

[…] Where the regulations may have a bigger impact is on the growing number of offshore companies – and their chief executive officers – who are using blogs to communicate with customers. Bob Lutz of General Motors and Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems are just two examples of chief executive bloggers. Companies that have blogs – and that are also pursuing a China investment strategy – will need to make a decision and take advice on how such blogs may or may not come within the purview of the new regulations.

A number of companies, in particular search engine companies, are choosing self-censorship at this time.

The FT concluded with a question: How will the people the global corporations most need to influence in China – the local population – respond longer term to a company’s decision to adhere to local law versus prioritising free speech?

It’s a good question but, as with the blog censorship conversations I mentioned earlier, I can’t see any black-and-white answers.

Financial Times | Blogs come on to censors’ radar (paid sub required).

Blog Censorship In China

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Neville Hobson is the author of the popular blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

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