Last week America’s second largest technology company, Google, announced a program that would assist communist China’s ongoing attempt to control the minds of its over 1.3 billion people. Simply put, Google will help make sure that when anyone in China looks up Tiananmen Square on the Chinese version Google is creating of its top rated search engine, that person will never see the famous picture of a student facing a Chinese Army tank.
Google is perverting its own wonderful market leading search technology, that opens up the resources of the entire internet to everyone, into becoming the world’s most efficient censorship machine. And it is doing this so it can get even richer by gaining access to the fastest growing internet marketplace in the world. China is now second with over 100 million users and will soon to surpass the United States and become the largest internet market in the world.
In spite of Google’s aging hippie rhetoric on its website about "Do No Evil," there can’t be anything much more evil than helping a totalitarian regime, that once brainwashed captured United States POW’s during the Korean War, brainwash its own citizens more efficiently. Political analyst Ralph Peters puts it perfectly: "Forget all the new-age-has-dawned rhetoric: Google agreed to turn the information superhighway into a prison corridor (while posturing about freedom of information back home in the USA). Google hasn’t simply betrayed American interests — its executives have betrayed the aspirations of a billion Chinese, reducing them to just more digits in Google’s digital universe."
For many years the State Department in coordination with the Department of Defense has been clearing or denying exports of hi-tech hardware or software that might have "dual-use" capabilities that could threaten the security of the United States. Normally this is applied to products with military applications, but one of the problems with it has always been the wide range of discretion the government has in exercising its powers made its decisions unpredictable to American business. Today the responsibility for reviewing the kind of arrangement Google and China are planning to make has moved to the Bureau of Industry and Security of the Department of Commerce.
According to a blandly oblivious bureaucrat at BIS Commerce: "Internet filtering technologies are ubiquitous and are generally not subject to export controls. We are not aware of any U.S. government regulatory review requirements with respect to this transaction."
Since those export controls were originally imposed back in smokestack America, the United States economy changed from an industrial economy to an information economy. Today more than half of America’s GDP comes from information technology and information products. Not surprisingly, the Federal Government is often the last to understand changes like this. It can be hard to see that in today’s world information technology might be more dangerous than military equipment.
But can anyone at Commerce say that an American company’s helping poison the minds of the largest nation on earth is any more defensible than had an American chemical company sold the formula for the infamous Zyklon D gas used at Auschwitz that helped Nazi Germany "control political dissidents" by poisoning their bodies?
In President Bush’s State of the Union message, the President said: "We seek the end of tyranny in the world." And he reminded the world that had America merely stood by while the Soviet Empire suppressed millions of those in the USSR and Eastern Europe we would have been "complicit in the oppression of others."
If the Bush Administration and GOP-led Congress continue to do nothing in the face of open defiance by American high tech companies like Google who wish to sell the new tools of oppression to authoritarian governments, there is no doubt that they will be "complicit in the oppression of others" as well.
The Bush Administration should immediately ask for an ongoing review of Google’s or any other American high technology company’s exports that in its opinion may threaten the national security of the United States by adding a useful tool for oppression to the arsenal of the tyrannies we say we oppose. If it fails to, Congress should remember the Jackson-Vanik Act it passed which did so much to help liberate the former Soviet Union.