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Tue, Jun 14 2005

Microsoft Knows: "By The People" Works

Although they're not the first business to do this sort of thing, there's been a lot of name calling and hissing going on over Microsoft cooperating with China's move to block the use of terms such as "human rights" and "democracy" on Microsoft's MSN Spaces. I can understand people's anger and frustration, but I'm also remembering that Microsoft is a company attempting to operate in a world market. Sometimes U.S. based businesses do things differently when distributing their products and services in other countries.

The truth is that we don't live in a world where we get to call all the shots-- morally, monetarily or politically. Does that mean we should refuse to reach out to others under any circumstances except those on our own terms? Would it be better for Microsoft (or any company) to refuse to allow its products to be compromised and end up having them banned from countries where freedoms are limited by governmental concerns?

Humanitarian groups know very well the value of supplying basic needs to people under restrictive conditions. Individuals from these types of organizations have told me how they make allowances for local customs and political factions. Sometimes things have to happen that you and I would not consider ethical or proper. But they happen so that basic needs can be taken care of for those who are suffering and in need.

Microsoft isn't a humanitarian organization. It's a business. But it has tremendous "foot in the door" power all over the planet. I can almost guarantee you that the folks at Microsoft aren't agreeing to censor blogs and other materials to insult the Chinese people. Their products and services, placed in the hands of people allover China, could open doors that no one else has been able to even knock on before.

Remember the history of messages carried from house to house and in small presses in the early days of our own U.S. attempts at independence. If those determined people did it with such limited technology, who are we to assume that the Chinese people don't have what it takes to figure out ways to talk about human rights and promote human rights, without ever using the phrase "human rights"? Let's give them credit for being at least as smart as early American colonists were.

I don't agree with everything Microsoft does all the time. But I have to say that this time they're doing something even our own U.S. government hasn't been able to do. Before we raise our hackles at Microsoft and get all arrogant and snippy, let's first recognize that the tools to begin democracy are being quietly, and openly, passed to the very capable Chinese citizens. Those citizens will know what to do next.

posted at: 07:32 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

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