Gates Weighs In On Google-China Spat

WASHINGTON — Microsoft founder Bill Gates has weighed in on a row between China and Web giant Google over cyberattacks, saying that Beijing's efforts to censor the Internet were "fortunately ...very limited."
Calling it a "complex issue," Gates spoke about the controversy in an interview Monday with ABC television even as the US government was stiffening its stance on Internet freedom.
"The role of the Internet in every country has been very positive, letting people speak out in new ways," he said. "And fortunately the Chinese efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited. You know, it is easy to go around it."
Gates said different countries had different rules on censorship, pointing out that Germany forbids pro-Nazi statements that would be protected as free speech in the United States.
"And so you have got to decide do you want to obey the laws of the countries you are in or not. If not, you may not end up doing business there," he said.
"You know, fortunately the trend towards openness and sharing ideas is being fostered in an incredible way."
Google has said that following the cyberattacks on the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists it is no longer willing to censor Web search results in China even it that means it has to leave the country.
Google has not yet stopped censoring search results on, but Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said last week it would happen soon.
The State Department, meanwhile, said it recognized that China had a different position with respect to restricting information but the United States believe it was "inconsistent with the information environment and prerequisites of the 21st century."
"So we will continue to promote the free flow of information, unfettered access to information, the ability to have virtual freedom of association," said spokesman Philip Crowley.
"These are all, we believe, fundamental tenets of the environment that we live in, and we will not back away from advocating that this should be something that all countries should promote," Crowley said.
The spokesman recalled that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a major policy speech on Internet freedom last week in which she talked about "being able to surf the Internet without restrictions."
Beijing lashed out at Clinton's speech on Friday, saying it was "harmful" to Sino-US relations, which are already dogged by trade and currency issues and US arms sales to Taiwan, and a Chinese spokesman on Monday denied any state involvement in the cyberattacks which Google said originated in China.
A spokesman for China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Monday that the "accusation that the Chinese government participated in (any) cyberattack, either in an explicit or inexplicit way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China."
"China's policy on Internet safety is transparent and consistent," the spokesman told state news agency Xinhua, saying the country with the world's largest online community was itself the "biggest victim" of hacking.
In another interview on Xinhua, a spokesman for China's State Council, or cabinet, said Beijing's efforts to remove harmful content from the Internet were legitimate and should be free from "unjustifiable interference."
Meanwhile, the websites of at least five organizations dealing with Chinese human rights and dissident issues were hacked in recent days, one of the groups said Monday.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a network of domestic and overseas China activists, released a statement saying attacks on its website began Saturday afternoon and continued for about 14 hours.
It said others reporting cyberattacks included the human rights-related news and information sites Canyu, Rights and Livelihood Watch, and New Century News, as well as the Independent Chinese Pen, a writer's group.

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