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If I have to chose between Google and the Chinese government, I chose the U.S. government. I say that to underscore how false your choice is, and how ludicrous it is to posit that our only choice is between an oppressive authoritarian government on the one han, and a predatory behemoth Internet ad agency on the other -- because that is what Google is. If we're going to suddenly declare Google is a "state" that we can prefer to China, then we can ask Google to have the same kind of separations of power and legislative, executive and judicial branches and checks and balances of a real government. Google is as abusive to bloggers who fall afoul of their arcane ad policies as China is to dissidents -- not in *quality* or *degree of real harm* but in *type* of arbitrary *lack of due process*. And left unchecked, that worsens. The U.S. is always perceived as having little leverage with China, but we are deeply integrated with massive consumer purchases and visas for students and scholars, and we should use these channels for human right advocacy without fear. Google acted not because it wished to protect its customers' privacy, which is defeats daily with its massive ad data-scraping mechanisms, but because its property -- its servers -- were encroached. That's all it's about -- company property. The sort of private property that Google doesn't respect when dealing with its own customers and the world at large. In fact, Rebecca, I feel your critique, like other liberals approaching these issues, is lacking a robust enough grasp of the need for a capitalist system under the rule of law ensuring free enterprise. In fact, I feel an underlying distaste to such a system and a distinct unwillingness to credit the capitalistic system that made a Google possible *itself* and a nation with its democratic laws *itself* as the underlying structures you should be chosing, rather than the forced march to a choice for Google. "Parliamentary democracy" doesn't appear freestanding without an economic system that allows private as well as public property and free enterprise. Net Neutrality? One of those badly named movement causes -- it should be called "Subsidized Net Consumption for Some Power Users -- which is a cover for decoupling private property of companies to force the state to take over what a narrow interest group needs for itself. Net neutrality serves not the Bible downloaders invoked by the left in a faux balance exercise, or World of Warcraft patchers so much as it helps the ad agency Google which needs your free access to its Youtube page to see ads. That's why Google and EFF back these campaigns against telecoms the most -- they have vested, capital interests at stake in keeping their workspaces and tools free or very low in cost. I don't see why governments should favor one monopolistic company over others, and favour Google and its widgeteers over telecoms. Isn't that the corporate handouts that the left is always denouncing? You are big on invoking the importance of free institutions. But you seem reluctant to concede that these institutions in America persisted even under Bush and will persist after Obama, that the evils of the Bush administration are not enough to offset them and made change possible. Furthermore, you don't seem to back the nation-state's free institutions enough to realize that they are the answer to the future of global governance of the Internet, not a fantasy superstate of Google. I'm not going to worry about how I can "incentivize" corporations. They take care of that themselves in a free market. Rather, I'm going to go on making vocal denunciations of their caving to authoritarian regimes and urging them to look beyond short-term benefits to the long-term goals of having free customers in free societies who will buy and use their services and products more. Not idealistic enough for you and too crass and commercial? But commerce is what maintains freedom -- including for Google. While making Google "socially responsible" might seem a laudable goal, I'd rather focus not on beefing up Google as a putative moral being and supra-national benign creature, but concentrate on the rule of law in states and in institutions like the UN. That's because I think it's a contradiction in terms to expect the ad agency Google which leverages the freemium service of search to make a profit to acquire more morality and responsibility. The bigger and more powerful it gets, the less it will be subject to these moral restraints of itself. Only governments can restrain Google and other Internet giants like Facebook, and they should be working to do this in each country, and internationally in existing institutions. There's nothing magical about Google's possession of your online time. If anything, it's Orwellian. More national lawsuits need to be launched against Google's abusiveness to its Adsense customers when it arbitrarily takes away accounts; more lawsuits need to be launched by corporations whose documents have been leaked from Googledocs and the EU and other bodies need to enforce privacy laws against Google; more UN and EU and other international condemnation needs to occur when Google caves to oppressive governments. This is where liberal democracy and human rights lie, not in amplifying the power of Google to "become moral". Let Google sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rebecca, and start with the due process it outlines even on something like their Adsense customers, eh? People arbitrarily cut off from the service (Google it to see how many of them there are!) don't have the basic rights to face their accused or be notified of the exact charges against them. Only one court case by someone with deep pockets has ever worked to reverse their arbitrary decisions. Your distaste and reluctance to embrace the potential of your own country's government is a typical disaffection of the left, but it need not hobble all of us. The FCC should not fall for the Net Neutrality shill and should devise policies for a free market of bandwidth as well as rational subsidies of bandwidth without forcing telecoms to absorb all the costs. Re: "The Internet and the penetration of cyberspace into the lives of a critical mass of people around the world has created a whole new layer of struggle over sovereignty, rights, and legitimacy." Yes, but you seem to be celebrating the struggle as already won by an elite consisting of yourself and some of your smarter readers and colleagues by your bid to start drafting a constitution! This sort of statement is rife with potential for abusive by Bolshevik-like advance-guards who think they are smarter and more technically savvy than all of us. I don't need an unelected wired. The unelected wired around the Digital Beltway in Obama's pocket are bad enough. If you are not one of those people getting all dewey-eyed about Internet governance by the Meterati than you'll have to concede that this "layer" is not one made with anyone's consent, especially in undeveloped countries, but even in developed countries where the titans of web 2.0 and the geeks who make a living from them are not elected or accountable any more than organic governments -- in fact less so, given the power and rigidity of computer code, and the anonymity of coders and Internet users. I have a suggestion for your Constitution for a Cyber-Nation -- don't write one. If you must, then don't write it as one of the digerati yourself. At least convene a representative assembly that elects a drafting committee. There's no reason to abandon democracy just because you have reached the "meta" layers of cyberspace. I'm going to read Rosenberg's "Open" essay but from the excerpts you've indicated I'm very troubled. Google is not an open system and its pretensions that it is are false and misleading. It's a secretive company with power over people and institutions that it does not make transparent. It's very search algorithms making so many blogs and businesses live or die are closed to the public. It holds an enormous amount of power without any checks. You don't get to opt *out* of Google's grand scrape of your gmail to serve you ads. Openness and transparency that are made to scrape the data of a helpless public to the commercial benefit of only one company isn't really open society in the historic sense, which has to do with the ability for competing powers to balance out and for the public commons to be maintained fairly. Just as all those communist governments that abused the term "People's Democracy" were completely illegitimate, so any "people's cyberspace government" will be discredited on the face of it. The real hope for restraint of the Internet oligarchs like Google, Twitter, Facebook, ebay, etc. is to have national governments with democratic legislatures and independent judiciaries pass laws to restrain them in the interests of the public.
Commented Jan 18, 2010 on
Google, China, and the future of freedom on the global Internet
Google, China, and the future of freedom on the global Internet
Maybe it's because I was schooled in political science, not computer science. But frankly I've been surprised by the extent to which some respected commentators have focused on trashing Google for lacking purity of motive. As if that were some kind of brilliant revelation. Of course Google's acti...
Max, Apparently you've blocked my avatar name Prokofy Neva on your service as you don't like critical responses. Don't worry, dear, I don't fear connecting my avatar to my RL person. Do you? You said there was just you doing this blog, that it is just "a hobby". You appear to be a 22-year-old male working at a Washington law firm that serves as a lobbyist for clients from Silicon Valley among others. It's not exactly clear what your job is there or what prompted you to start this blog now. Yet you say "we" and "Pixels and Policy" as if there is more than one of you, as if you were a large news corporation or at least had a large firm behind you (and maybe there) is. What do you mean, "we," white guy? When you make a claim like "4 out of 5 doctors recommend Trident for their patients who chew gum," we have to know your sample even if you are only a casual hobbyist blogger. And it's no good saying "I hope to have a fair sample of 1,200 some day"; what is needed to be publicized is your sample *now*. 8? 12? Because it seems very small -- and bogus. Everyone knows that a lot of the females in SL are males. And someone explained the formula for how you can tell: the larger the setting on the breast slider, the greater the liklihood that "she" is "he" because the harder that male is trying to be a female and conceal this fact from you. Time and again, we've seen large-busted females, especially aggressive coders who miraculously claimed to know programming and still be females (which is frankly still rather rare among females) clinging to these claims and slamming anyone who points out that they are, um, exaggerating. This notion that there is prejudice against minorities was bogus, as noted; and the claims about females and males here are bogus as well. The post on racism claimed that blacks in There.com, not SL, real or imagined, were suffering discrimination, when in fact the study only showed that when asked to do something very unpleasant and disagreeable -- go with a stranger to their sim and instantly agree to being photographed -- some people reacted negatively some of the time with black avatars -- which may be more to do with what they were asked than the colour of the avatar. And now we're hearing a fake claim that unless a woman tarts herself up she won't have friends, and women are labouring under this misogynist notion. (Are you a misogynist as well as a casual misanthrope?) There are numerous women in SL that opt to look like themselves; to look not like sluts; or to look like something completely different, i.e. a furry, a robot, etc. For one, if people want to make sexual ideals based on popular culture, guess what, they're free to do that without your politically-correct intrusions. For two, quite a few don't do this, you obviously haven't gotten around much.
Commented Nov 13, 2009 on
The Power of Real-World Gender Roles in Second Life
Pixels and Policy
The Power of Real-World Gender Roles in Second Life
Pixels and Policy recently tackled the issue of how racial bias crept across the real-virtual divide and found a home in the virtual world. Dozens of our readers responded with their own stories of virtual prejudice as well as their critiques of our research. As we researched the role of race i...
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