Is This Moral? Tech Firms Helping Dictators Oppress Their People

Microsoft, Yahoo, and other multinational tech companies headquartered here in the USA are helping the Chinese government and other totalitarian regimes violate the human rights of their citizen. At CNET’s today, there is a story headline “Congress looks askance at firms that bow to China” Apparently some of our representatives in the US Congress are questioning whether or not it should be legal for a US company to directly facilitate foreign dictators in their efforts to abridge the God-given and inalienable right of free speech, free press, and so forth. What do you think? Is this a moral issue, or is it strictly politics?

My own highly tuned sense of right and wrong believes that it is immoral for anyone to help dictators oppress their people even if they can make a lot of money doing it. If we let Google, Yahoo and Microsoft censor what Chinese citizens can say on the Internet, how are we going to keep them from doing it to us right here in the US? Sure, these companies want the extra revenues from being BIG in those countries just like they are BIG here at home. But that sounds to me like a personal problem. If they can’t make an honest profit without doing business with tyrants, then they should remain small companies. So what is the problem? We don’t let Americans violate the rights of other Americans. Why should we let them violate the rights of foreigners? Isn’t the US Constitution for the protection of ALL flesh? God said so himself, didn’t he? If it is illegal for Americans to violate the rights of other Americans, it should be illegal for Americans to violate the rights of Chinese citizens too, even if it is legal in China. That just proves that the government in China is immoral and has immoral laws. Do we have to be complicit in their crimes against their own people? Where is the morality in that?

Of course, there may be other American companies that are aiding and abetting the Chinese government, and the totalitarian governments of other nations too. If we pass laws against this kind of behavior by Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo, what are we going to do about companies like Wal-Mart? Doesn’t Wal-Mart help the Chinese prevent labor unions over there? For that matter, how does Wal-Mart get away with preventing labor unions among their employees here in the USA? I never did understand that.

What do you think?


6 Responses to Is This Moral? Tech Firms Helping Dictators Oppress Their People

  1. The best thing we can do to promote freedom and democracy in the world is to set a good example for other nations to emulate. Anything that we do to besmirch our reputation or tarnish our image as a people truly motivated not by money but by human freedom detracts from our efforts. For this reason it makes no sense whatever to preach freedom abroad while doing things at home that point us out to be hypocrites. How can we hope to inspire the Iraqis, Iranians, North Koreans and the Chinese to improve their own governments in the name of freedom and democracy if we buttress and support those in their respective nations that oppress them? Cooperating with totalitarian dictatorships abroad, often to the point of propping them up and keeping them in power, does nothing to promote freedom there or here either.

    If Google or any other USA based corporation feels free to cooperate and even assist in the oppression of other peoples, what guarantee is there that they will not do the same in the efforts of some among us here at home that have anti-democracy, and anti-freedom agendas? Our own government is always the greatest threat to our freedom. That is the reason we have a Constitution. What if Google cooperates with our own government to “filter” information available to Americans? Is that what we want? If not, we had better not encourage Google to do the same in other nations.

  2. Jonathan Stone says:

    I would have to disagree. I believe one of the most important forces for change in opressed societies like China is for the Internet to reach as broadly and deeply in society as possible. The reality is that, despite the voluntary censorship Google, Yahoo, and others are performing, that everything is not censored. The alternative to the companies censoring their services in China is for China to ban the services entirely.

    Sometimes the best method to achieve progress is to get your foot in the door. Rebellion is only productive when it can be successful. Yahoo and Google refusing to censor in China “on principle” would be useless, and China wouldn’t change its mind about anything. The government of China would not suffer, only its citizens.

    Similarly, saints living under Communism were (and are) encouraged to be obedient to the local laws. While they might have been justified in rebellion, the brethren knew that more would be accomplished in the long run if the saints were loyal citizens than if they were rebels.

    Progress is made in China over decades, not overnight. Nor does its communist government care in the slightest what the rest of the world thinks about its actions. Righteous refusal on the part of Google to censor, as popular as it might be with human rights activists, would do nothing to improve the situation of Chinese citizens. Their willingness to play by China’s rules will, over the long run, contribute to a more free China as the Internet becomes more prevalent in Chinese society.

  3. Jonah the giant whale says:

    As a government employee I have to disagree. If I violate any rights, even ones not generally enforced on non government employees I will lose my job, not only that I could go to jail.

    As for the article, and the blog, I think you’re right John. Why do right/wrong go out the window when we go to work? Answer, they don’t. But people treat “doing business” as an excuse to ignore right and wrong. I hope congress has the guts to do something about this.

    I think it violates the spirit of the constitution. At the very least it does violate the spirit this country was founded on.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

  4. Anonymous says:

    What a load of caca!
    Grow a brain.

  5. Anonymous says:

    But it’s not illegal for Americans to violate the rights of other Americans. There is a special class that is excempt from this. This special class of people are those that get paid from the taxes that are stolen from us, yes this special class that can violate the rights of Americans are government employees.

  6. I have been hearing about this for the past year or so. I personally think it is one of the most repugnant, repulsive, and immoral things I have seem companies do in a long time. But it doesn’t surprise me. It’s all about money, and democratic freedoms are just a nuisance.

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