Google might think Chinese censorship of the Internet is unacceptable, but Bill Gates says it's not that bad. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Good Morning America, Gates called China's attempts to censor the Internet "very limited," and said its controls are not much different than other countries' policies.
Chinese media was glad for the support. On Wednesday, the English-language Global Times, a tabloid published by the People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, trumpeted, "Bill Gates Bats for China," The Wall Street Journal reported. Gates was also the front-page topic of the Chinese-language People's Daily and China Daily, the leading English-language newspaper in the country.
'Easy' To Avoid Controls
Gates said it's "easy to go around" the Chinese government's system of controls. "And so I think keeping the Internet thriving there is very important," he said. Other countries also censor the Internet -- to ban porn, for example, or the way that Germany censors references to the Nazi Party. "And so you've got to decide: Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you're in, or not?" Gates asked.
Make no mistake, Gates' comments are directly aimed at Google. He told The New York Times that Google has "done nothing and gotten a lot of credit for it."
"What point are they making?" he mused. "Now, if Google ever chooses to pull out of the United States, then I'd give them credit."
Aside from these sorts of media swipes, however, don't look for Microsoft to take a strong position with regard to China, says Andrew Storms, director of security at nCircle. "Google took a rather bold two-step in this situation. Not only did they claim a state-sponsored cyberattack, but also retaliation by bringing Chinese Internet censorship back to the front line. Who wants to get in the middle of that slippery slope?" Storms said.
'Let Google Duel It Out'
"Despite how Microsoft officials might really feel or what they are saying in the boardroom, at this time it's not to their general advantage to take a strong stance in either direction," Storms explained. "Let Google duel it out [with China] and see what comes of their efforts."
As to the corporate breaches Google suffered, "We may never know all the details," Storms said. "One thing is for certain, the general public is now keenly aware of the Asian-based cyberattacks that have been going on for many years."
In other feedback, Lian Yue, a prominent Chinese blogger, tweeted that Gates was being "silly and unfair," the Journal said, and that his defense of Beijing's position "is unwise even from a pure business perspective, as it is damaging to Microsoft's commercial reputation."
Meanwhile, the Chinese government said it won't limit Chinese telecommunications companies from using devices running Google's Android operating system, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. That was a source of confusion in the aftermath of Google's public comments about China. China is urging Google to stay engaged in the country.
"As long as it complies with Chinese laws and regulations, and as long as it has good cooperation with operators ... their use of the system won't be limited," spokesperson Zhu Hongren said Wednesday at an annual news briefing.
Posted: 2010-02-06 @ 1:06pm PT
I think the amount of censorship that's going on there is awful. And I really don't know if or when it will ever be changed. I don't know, though, if you can compare the enormous amount of censorship going on there with the U.S. and pornography. There is a big difference in my opinion. I do think maybe Bill Gates should rethink some things considering one of China's biggest newspapers proudly proclaimed that Bill Gates batted for china."