Digital Newsmedia Group One
Internet freedom and China: a framework for analysis
Introduction: the situaiton in China
A framework for analysis
Industry is obviously a key player in this area although ‘industry’ as a whole takes into too many different groups with different goals and motivations. For this reason industry has been broken into three categories: online content providers (such as google, facebook, twitter etc); traditional content providers (companies providing traditional content but via the internet) and news organisations. This section will consider the motivations and goals of each of these three groups, the tools they have been and intend to use in the future, and how these tools interact with their motivations.
Online content providers
The most prominent company in this group is obviously Google, which frequently expresses vies on internet freedom. From Google’s perspective the problem is the restriction of the free flow of information, i.e. it is a free trade problem. In a recent policy White Paper Google commented on how important open flows of information are for its business, in which 53 per cent of its total revenue comes from overseas - see Google's White Paper Enabling Trade in the Era of Information Technologies: Breaking Down Barriers to the Free Flow of Information.
Google does not focus on China specifically in this White Paper, although it does provide some examples of internet censorship by the Chinese government, and is clearly motivated by concerns about the disruption of free flows of information in China (see, for example, Google's statement to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China's hearing on Google and Internet Control in China  at p 8).
In a blog post on release of the White Paper, Google's Public Policy Director commented: "the premise is simple: In addition to infringing human rights, governments that block the free flow of information on the Internet are also blocking trade and economic growth" .
Seeing the problem as one of free trade/global commerce leads Google to propose solutions that fall primarily into the 'law' lever when thinking about Lessig's four levers. Google wants US policy makers to (p 2):
* Focus on and publicly highlight as unfair trade barriers those practices by governments that restrict or disrupt the flow of online information services. * Take appropriate action where government restrictions on the free flow of online information violate international trade rules. * Establish new international trade rules under bilateral, regional, and multilateral agreements that provide further assurances in favor of the free flow of information on the Internet.
Google has also acted itself by stopping voluntary censorship of its google.cn site in Jan 2010 See this piece from TechCrunch which discusses the aftermath .
Background - decentralised news media (similar issues to last week)
Could look at problem through lens of following question: Who is a journalist and why does it matter?
Are news sources like Wikileaks new sources that will replace existing media formats? What’s the role of these incoming organizations?
- Institutional respect
- Deprofessionalization (dual loyalties – loyalties to company and to whatever news site gets info)
- Is one of the "problems" that the Internet provides a newer, efficient framework for giving large masses access to "private" documents and allowing leakers to broadcast those documents with ease. (Ie mainstream media isn't serving as a filter any longer). Is there a filtering problem, or just a filtering change? (info from trade secrets to national security implicated). Role of news media as good government watchdog changing?
- Privacy issues: to what degree does CDA 230 apply? (First Amendment concern vs. vicarious liability extension to breach of employee confidentiality agreements etc)
How much does this apply to blog/site that has editorial control over the posting of content?
- First Amendment concerns: What’s the role of the media and how does it relate to how our society is structured?
- Global internet freedom issues – role of media sources in
Shifting from print group with defined reporters to sources with whoever – does this make news sources easier or harder to control by diff sources?
- Reporters’ shield laws?: Who is defined as a reporter? Proposed federal shield law in US wouldn’t cover Wikileaks etc
- Filming of police officers with cell phone camera – online issues – phone confiscated?
3 states have laws against filming of officers on duty How does this tie into larger picture of what it means for journalism?
What is the best combination to regulate?
Laws Norms Market Architecture
- FTC reg requiring bloggers to disclose when they’ve been paid for their reviews
Can we change norms to revert to less disclosure? Is that even what we want?
- Market happy with more disclosure – can drive ads so we like it
Architecture has made this possible
- All factors pointing this way to more disclosure. So where will the pushback come from?
Is the dot going where we want it to go (effective journalism)? Assuming that it is, which area are we going to find the biggest threats to this movement?
A more specific problem
Look at case study -- Country that is using regulation and norms to keep online media at the status quo of print/broadcast "traditional" media. China: state run media – TV and news Trying to keep online media at that status quo. What are they doing, and where are the leaks?
Problem Will new/decentralized media make countries like China more free? Or will they make those countries easier to control?" Other questions like "how?" and "what can be done?" and "should anything be done?" follow from those initial questions. Iran, Google and the GNI, how new media should work, etc. all seems to fall out of that.
Potential problems with the problem
- making this too much about how China controls the network and not enough about how new media can break (or supplement) China's control.
- moving into more of a political question, about which we maybe do not really have the expertise to answer (in the sense it requires quite a lot of knowledge about the political, historical, cultural contexts in China/Iran etc) And also the what should be done question is potentially pretty
culturally specific (as the Neiman article notes).
Alternative approach - moving away from media issue
- focus on what the responsibilities/obligations/best practice of US based companies (e.g. google etc) can/should be when dealing with these countries in the internet context.
- google China, google's approach to mapa and disputed territories. Other examples?
- What role can and should such groups play in what are complex polital issues?