Upholding Free Speech and Privacy Online: A Legal-Based and Market-Based Approach for Internet Companies in China
University of Hawaii - Institute of Asian-Pacific Business Law; University of Hawaii - William S. Richardson School of Law; Spark. M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Hawai'i
May 6, 2010
Santa Clara Computer and High Technology Law Journal, Forthcoming
China is well known for its Internet-monitoring and censorship efforts. As Internet technology and the online culture develop, the Chinese government continues its efforts to control content and communications. It forces both domestic and foreign Internet companies that want to do business in China to censor content and reveal the private information of users upon request. There has been much discussion in the international community on how to prevent non-state actors, such as transnational corporations, from violating human rights. The situation in China is uncommon in that it is government coercion and not simply the will of the corporation that leads to free speech and privacy violations. This paper discusses a two-prong approach to move toward more freedom of expression and privacy rights within China’s Internet system. The first prong consists of an international corporate code of conduct, such as the Global Network Initiative, that provides guidelines on how to resist government attempts to violate the rights of users. This code must have a wide range of unified participants and a strong reporting and accountability system. The second prong is a market-based approach that focuses on innovation of technologies to overcome censorship, better consumer relations, and fostering of a strong online community. Companies that provide better products and that protect the interest and freedom of users will gain market share in China and thus have more influence over industry regulation. Although China has managed to prevent economic freedom from significantly influencing political reform, greater freedom on the Internet will likely lead to incremental changes in civil and political rights. By combining these two prongs, a strong international network of companies backed by an emerging standard of business conduct can protect freedom of speech and privacy while still providing a robust online world for the Chinese people.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 42
Keywords: China, Internet, censorship, free speech, Google, privacy
Date posted: May 10, 2010 ; Last revised: October 27, 2012