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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Moral relativist of the week: Niklas Zennstrom of Skype

The internet telephony company Skype is following the lead of Google, et. al. and allowing its Chinese partner firm, Tom Online, to censor text-based correspondence according to the dictates of the Chinese government. Among the words that activate Tom's text filter are "Falun Gong" and big hitter, but lousy tipper, the "Dalai Lama."

Here's Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom rationalizing his company's position:

"Tom had implemented a text filter, which is what everyone else in that market is doing," said Zennstrom. "Those are the regulations."

He added: "I may like or not like the laws and regulations to operate businesses in the UK or Germany or the US, but if I do business there I choose to comply with those laws and regulations. I can try to lobby to change them, but I need to comply with them. China in that way is not different."

To Zennstrom, a country's laws are a country's laws. There's absolutely no difference between the US having laws that regulate communications in order to, say, prevent the spread of the practice of selling children for sexual purposes, and China having laws that regulate communications to, say, prevent the spread of truths that might weaken the government's grip on the populace, and also to make it easier for the government to identify political dissidents and arrest them. Nope, no difference there. Different cultures have different values, that's all. Who is Zennstrom to judge?

I love the smell of moral relativism in the morning. It smells like...cowardice.*

More info here and here.

(Hat tip: K-Lo at the The Corner)

*Many of you have asked if Niklas Zennstrom just made my list. Indeed he did.

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