Tuesday, February 16, 2010


What struck me most about the whole Google-China thing was the surprise some people expressed that the e-mail addresses of human rights activists were being hacked at all. I mean, how many of the activists thought for a minute that their accounts were safe? No one who does that kind of work trusts their phones, their computers, anything (see, for example, Marquand's story about journalists' experiences with hacking in China).

Google should get a lot of credit, but not for saying enough is enough to a particularly egregious problem that the company alone had been suffering in silence. They should get credit for finally stating something blindingly obvious, for finally acting as if something everyone else had put up with for ages was not, actually, normal.

The sharpness of China's reaction---Google's decision was on the cover of the Chinese-language, paper edition of the nationalist Global Times the next day; the English-language China Daily followed with a deceptive "point-counterpoint"-style piece on Google the next day, if I recall correctly---was surprising for me. But maybe it shouldn't have been. Stating the obvious is sometimes a big deal.

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