Wed, Jan 27, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Chinese Internet censorship ‘very limited’: Bill Gates

‘COMPLEX’ Gates said censorship laws differ among countries and it was up to companies to decide whether they wanted to quit or obey

AFP , WASHINGTON

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has weighed in on a row between China and Web giant Google over cyberattacks, saying that Beijing’s efforts to censor the Internet were “fortunately ... very limited.”

Calling it a “complex issue,” Gates spoke about the controversy in an interview on Monday with ABC television even as the US government was stiffening its stance on Internet freedom.

“The role of the Internet in every country has been very positive, letting people speak out in new ways,” he said. “And fortunately the Chinese efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited. You know, it is easy to go around it.”

PRO-NAZI?

Gates said different countries had different rules on censorship, pointing out that Germany forbids pro-Nazi statements that would be protected as free speech in the US.

“And so you have got to decide do you want to obey the laws of the countries you are in or not. If not, you may not end up doing business there,” he said.

“You know, fortunately the trend towards openness and sharing ideas is being fostered in an incredible way,” he said.

Google has said that following the cyberattacks on the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, it is no longer willing to censor Web search results in China even it that means it has to leave the country.

Google has not yet stopped censoring search results on google.cn, but Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said last week it would happen soon.

The US Department of State, meanwhile, said it recognized that China had a different position with respect to restricting information, but the US believe it was “inconsistent with the information environment and prerequisites of the 21st century.”

“So we will continue to promote the free flow of information, unfettered access to information, the ability to have virtual freedom of association,” spokesman Philip Crowley said.

“These are all, we believe, fundamental tenets of the environment that we live in, and we will not back away from advocating that this should be something that all countries should promote,” Crowley said.

MORE ATTACKS

Meanwhile, the Web sites of at least five organizations dealing with Chinese human rights and dissident issues were hacked in recent days, one of the groups said on Monday.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a network of domestic and overseas China activists, released a statement saying attacks on its Web site began on Saturday afternoon and continued for about 14 hours.

It said others reporting cyberattacks included the human rights-related news and information sites Canyu, Rights and Livelihood Watch, and New Century News, as well as the Independent Chinese PEN, a writer’s group.

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