Wikipedia & ChinaNovember 17th, 2006 | Posted by in Business Ethics | China | Corporate Social Responsibility | Interesting News
Though it appeared below the fold in the Boston Globe’s business section this morning, I feel the recent news that China has unblocked Wikipedia to be very important. In case you missed the details, here are a few articles that provide relevant background:
The news is significant for a number of reasons. The lowering of information control, in a country where specific politically-charged content is monitored and accordingly suppressed, is certainly a compelling story on its own merits. However, there is something larger that cropped up as a result of this event: validity that holding a firm line on ethics can actually work.
“The news appears to vindicate [Wikipedia founder] Wales’s tough stand against Internet censorship. He has said that Wikipedia will not remove articles about subjects regarded as controversial by the Chinese government, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.” [Boston Globe]
While the profit-focused decision makers at Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cisco, and other notable multinationals, chose to bend to the Chinese government’s censorship initiatives, Wikipedia held its ground. Executives from the noted companies that chose to prioritize profits, over aiding the control of information access and personal freedom, frequently made the argument that it would be better to have some presence in China rather than none at all. In other words, at least the citizens can search for information using Google, albeit censored, than not with Google at all.
“But major American Internet companies like Yahoo Inc., Google Inc., and Microsoft Corp. have voluntarily censored the Internet content they offer in China, in exchange for the right to do business there. The censorship has been denounced by politicians and human rights groups. The companies reply that it’s better to provide some Internet services to China’s 1.3 billion people than to be frozen out of China altogether.” [Boston Globe]
Curiously, Wikipedia didn’t seem to come to the same conclusion. Censorship of its content was not an option. Whether from a relaxation in control, changing censorship policies, or perhaps a sinister plot to alter entries in China’s favor (as the Boston Globe article sensationally hypothesizes), the country has decided to allow its citizens unfettered access to the Free Encyclopedia.
Corporate executives and shareholders take note…
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