Going Ballistic

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2005-09-08 Print this article Print

It is fair to say I went absolutely ballistic over what I believed was the United States selling censorship tools to the Chinese government. I promptly wrote a column nuking the company involved, but held it because I considered the allegation I was making to be so bizarre.
Further investigation allowed the company to demonstrate as conclusively as I considered possible that they wanted nothing more than to give Chinese parents better control over what their children accessed online.
The column was appropriately rewritten and took a much more positive slant. Click here to read more about columnist David Courseys thoughts on American companies helping China filter the Internet. I am still watching this company, just in case, though I have no reason to suspect it of any wrongdoing. I know there areas where good patriots (of all political stripes) may disagree, but I could never support censoring anyones right to speak out on political or religious issues. I am concerned, for example, about people posting the directions for making WMD materials on the Internet and believe that violent video games and entertainment contribute in measurable ways to a violent society. In these and similar cases, I am not opposed to some sort of regulation, which I understand some would call censorship. Id rather people just acted responsibility and with concern for others, but if they dont, I think government should be ready to step in. Its not clear to me that allowing prescription drugs to be advertised directly to patients has improved health care. I think we were better off when such advertising was illegal. But is that really censorship or just good public policy? If the American people, though their elected representatives, decide to regulate online gambling, I believe we should have the option of forcing the issue if offshore Web sites that dont want to play by our rules. We dont have the use the option, but it should be available to us. Likewise, we should have as much ability as possible to assure that electronic commerce is conducted within our laws. There are a number of big sticks at our disposal, but the biggest would be shutting the offending commercial Internet traffic off at our borders. I hope it would never come to this, but there will be criminals out there forcing the issue, and we should respond as we deem necessary. Obviously, I am not someone who believes all speech should be completely unregulated. But most people are that way. Weve agreed that yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, threatening to kill someone, or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States all cross the line. There is also a distinction between the free speech that makes democracy possible and that which allows criminals and others to take advantage of us all. I dont think my views make me a censor. But you have the right to call me whatever you like. Thats your right—its free speech. Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at david_coursey@ziffdavis.com.

One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for eWeek.com, where he writes a daily Blog (blog.ziffdavis.com/coursey) and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is www.coursey.com.

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