China's Web "firewall" should be WTO issue: EU's Kroes

SHANGHAI Mon May 17, 2010 7:28am EDT

1 of 3. Vice-President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes attends a meeting at Toudou.com office, a Chinese video sharing web site in Shanghai May 17, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's Internet "firewall" is a trade barrier and needs to be tackled within the framework of the World Trade Organization, Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, told reporters in Shanghai on Monday.

Dutch-born Kroes, who is also in charge of Europe's digital agenda, said the firewall was a trade barrier as long as it blocked communication for Internet users, preventing the free flow of information.

"It is one of those issues that needs to be tackled within the WTO," said Kroes, who served as European Commissioner for competition until 2009.

Kroes spoke at the China headquarters of video-sharing company Tudou, a rival of Google's internationally popular video-sharing platform YouTube that is blocked in China.

Chinese law requires Internet companies to block or remove objectionable content, including pornography and any information deemed sensitive by the ruling Communist Party.

Social media platforms popular overseas, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, are all blocked in China for fear they will provide a platform to organize or share illicit information.

"I am pushing wherever I can just to get European enterprises a level playing field in China and the other way around. It should be reciprocal," she said, adding that the amount of disruption from the firewall varied for each business.

The U.S. has also explored taking China's Internet restrictions to the WTO. In the past, the WTO has upheld China's right to censor printed and audiovisual content.

China's more than 400 million Internet users, many of them young and educated, increasingly spend time online for entertainment. Despite censorship, the Internet can be a potent public forum in China, with bloggers and amorphous online groups hectoring the government over pollution and corruption.

Kroes said it was significant that companies such as Tudou, which uploads user videos, show that the younger generation is taking an active role in tackling censorship.

Tudou, which adheres to government censorship regulations, said it deletes 100,000 videos every month for content that involves pornography or politics.

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Comments (11)
Pterosaur wrote:
Firewall is a trade issue?

Sure, if she wants to export the pornography and anti-government materials.

May 17, 2010 8:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
I see the “Red Guards” have already begun their blogging propaganda for this article.

@ Pterosaur and SunnyZ:

If you really cared about the well being of your fellow Chinese countrymen, then you would not defend your government as much as you do. The greatest threat to the Chinese people is the Chinese government! Your government keeps you misinformed by censoring everything you read on the internet. They are hiding the truth from you by not allowing you fee access to information. Why else would they fear a well informed public???

The censorship of the internet is a crime against humanity!

Google’s withdrawal from China does not represent foreign companies inability to compete in China, but rather represents companies finally standing up and doing the right thing….the moral thing.

I wish more companies had the same values and principles as Google. It’s time to ignore profits, and DO THE RIGHT THING!

Thank you Google!!!

Freedom of information is a basic right that EVERY human being is entitled to. Who gives the CCP the right to deny the Chinese people free acess to information???

May 17, 2010 9:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
blahhhhhh wrote:
SunnyZ

Facebook and Youtube were blocked. Facebook was very successful in China. All of my Chinese friends in Beijing used it. Youtube was also very successful. The firewall is what hinders these companies’ ability to make profit in China, and the reason is protectionism. I have been saying the west should take China to the WTO over the blocking of such sites as Facebook for a long time. I hope the Europeans seek justice on this issue.

Ps. you read too much Chinese news. Everyone in China knows that youtube and facebook were doing great until the Chinese government blocked them in support of the companies they can control. You are proof that most Chinese who post on here are brainwashed.

When will you “Red Guards” realize that foreigners have been living in China for decades now and we know the truth even if you don’t.

Google was doing great in China too, but they were attacked by internet criminals in China.

“These US companies cannot adapt to China business and political environment, and they give up”

A very ignorant comment, but you are chinese so we can’t expect much advanced thinking. Foreign companies are discriminated against in China, just like how racist chinese discriminate against white or black foreigners. All I have to say is that the arrogant Chinese better not complaign when the tide turns.

China is like North Korea: Pterosaur and SunnyZ are perfect examples of how Chinese are influenced by their state-run media and know nothing about the outside world. I have been teaching in China for 6 years, and most of my student (college aged) know nothing about the outside world. Many of them think Canada is in Europe.

May 17, 2010 10:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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