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China Ratchets Up Web Privacy Fight
Written by Daniel   
Wednesday, 27 January 2010 19:05

From The Wall Street Journall

BEIJING—Chinese state-run media trumpeted comments by Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates that played down China's Internet restrictions, as the government continued to ratchet up its rebuttal of recent U.S. criticisms of its Web policies.

Mr. Gates, in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" this week, said that China's "efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited," and likened its controls to those of other countries. In separate comments, he criticized Microsoft rival Google Inc.'s statement this month that it would stop obeying Beijing's censorship rules on its Chinese-language site, and might close its offices in the country.

On Wednesday, several Chinese newspapers gave the comments prominent display. "Bill Gates Bats for China," read the lead headline in the English edition of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official newspaper. The tabloid's Chinese version, which claims a daily circulation of 1.5 million, also devoted its front page to Mr. Gates's comments and to Western media reports of them, while China Daily, the country's main English-language paper,also highlighted the comments on page one.

Mr. Gates's comments echoed similar remarks made last week by Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, but Mr. Gates's celebrity status in China appears to have given his words greater weight. His comments followed a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week vowing to make Internet freedom a centerpiece of American foreign policy and praising U.S. companies that promote free information.

Chinese media have mounted a concerted effort to discredit Mrs. Clinton's remarks about China in that speech, as well as Google's allegations in its Jan. 12 statement that it and other companies were targeted by cyberattacks originating in China. Dozens of commentaries published since last week have described the U.S. criticism as hypocritical and alleged that Google is being used as a pawn by Washington.

Mr. Gates said the Internet has helped free expression, and that in China it is "easy to go around" the government's system of controls. "And so I think keeping the Internet thriving there is very important," he added. He said other countries restrict some Web content, such as pornography, and noted that Germany censors statements related to the Nazi Party. "And so you've got to decide: Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you're in, or not?" the Microsoft co-founder told ABC host George Stephanopoulos on Monday.


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