The power of website censorship presents a threat to whistleblowers

Does the Internet make it harder to be a whistleblower? In the case of journalist Matthew Lee, being a whistleblower in an industry where the government has so much regulation pushes you to fight even harder for the stories you want to tell.

Lee, editor-in-chief, webmaster and reporter for the Inner City Press, has been posting stories almost daily regarding corruption within the United Nations. Of course, his whistleblower reports about the inner workings of the U.N. have led to Google “de-listing” his presence on the Internet. In other words, as of February 13, Google users can no longer find articles from the Inner City Press online.

Although Google cites reasons like user complaints behind the de-listing of Lee’s stories, Lee could not help but think the true reason is that someone at the United Nations Development Programme pressured someone from Google News to de-list him.

As a result, I can’t help but wonder if higher authority, such as the government, is the true threat to whistleblowers in the United States. Sure, whistleblowers can break investigative and impactful stories that no other media corporation ever would, but whistleblowers also get a bad rep for being, well, an investigative journalist.

In the case of Guo Quan, a former Chinese university professor who declared he was the chairman of the underground New People’s Party, there comes the question of whether website censorship in the United States affects other foreign countries’ censorship. Quan, who sued Yahoo! and Google for blocking his name from search results in China, said he blocking his name from search engines in China is a violation of his political rights.

In China, search engines like Yahoo! and Google have no legal identity, and as a result, Quan had no choice but to sue both parent companies located in the U.S. While it is understandable for the Chinese government to block his name, he said it he could not accept foreign companies following suit.

Does Quan’s case reflect the power of website censorship outside of the United States? For major companies like Google, following the censorship demands of a large nation, such as China, is crucial for its growth in the industry. Perhaps Google’s ability to stay present in China reflects the influence that foreign nations have on U.S. Internet regulations.

With cases like Lee and Quan and their disappearance from Google News, I can’t help but wonder about the regulations and ethics behind website censorship. Some say web censorship is necessary while others consider it to be an invasion of privacy. But I mean, after all, don’t we all have the right to the Freedom of Speech?


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