Another opinion, this from the NYT; the situation should be well known by now:
Even as Internet use explodes in China, Beijing is cracking down on free expression, and Western technology firms are leaping to help. The companies block access to political Web sites, censor content, provide filtering equipment to the government and snitch on users. Companies argue that they must follow local laws, but they are also eager to ingratiate themselves with a government that controls access to the Chinese market.
I'll continue to track what I see about this. I found this to be especially interesting:
Recently Yahoo admitted that it had helped China sentence a dissident to 10 years in prison by identifying him as the sender of a banned e-mail message.
That sent me to google looking for some context, which I found here from the BBC:
According to a translation of his conviction, reproduced by Reporters Without Borders, he was found guilty of sending foreign-based websites the text of an internal Communist Party message.
Reporters Without Borders said the message warned journalists of the dangers of social unrest resulting from the return of dissidents on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, in June 2004.
The actual mechanics here -- someone leaking an internal government communication that the government would rather not have as public knowledge -- has rather obvious and ominous paralells on our side of the Pacific.
The temptation to turn the internet into an apparatus of State control will be no less strong for greedy States than is the temptation for greedy media companies to try and monopolize it. Hopefully the Public will coalesce to resist the inevitable attempts which will come in the 21st Century. This suggestion in the NYT editorial is a good one:
Reporters Without Borders, a group advocating press freedom, recommends that Internet companies also adopt a good conduct code, pledging not to filter out words like "democracy" and "human rights" from search engines and maintaining their e-mail and Internet servers outside China.
Western businesses have always overestimated the price of defending human rights in China. Some have done it effectively - privately and respectfully - and paid no cost. But the beauty of such an industrywide code of conduct for Internet companies is that it would put no company at a disadvantage.