Microsoft is now censoring US-based blogs that might (OK, probably) offend the Chinese government.
MSN is censoring Michael Anti’s blog, which has been irritating Beijing for some time. Microsoft’s excuse–“Most countries have laws and practices that require companies to make the internet safe for local users”–doesn’t square with what they did. They are censoring Michael Anti not in China, not in packets bound for China, but in America for Americans.
The Internet has always lived under the shadow of corporate censorship. So far, it still possible to find spaces where we can be free. But the noose has also been tightening for some time. In this case, we have one of the largest corporations anticipating the needs of one of the world’s most repressive governments, and taking care of business before it’s even asked to do so.
The problem isn’t Microsoft, although they do seem to be pretty forward-thinking in this regard. The truth is that Google, despite its understandable desire not to be evil, will be confronted at some point in the not-too-distant future to perform an act of pure evil or its shareholders will find a management who will. You can take that to the bank. Literally.
Corporations are amoral. Corporations are made up of people, but they are not people. Their only imperative is to maximize shareholder value. That can be a pretty good system as long as you recognize its limitations and plan accordingly.