Chinese tech chiefs, including Alibaba’s Jack Ma, pledge to support government censorship

Leaders of 10 top Chinese tech firms, including Alibaba CEO Jack Ma (pictured), have pledged to uphold the censorship and surveillance goals of the Chinese government.

These firms met for three days in Beijing at the behest of the State Internet Information Office, according to a Reuters report. The meeting concluded with a report that the companies would “conscientiously safeguard the broadcasting of positive messages online” and “resolutely curb the spread of rumours online.”

Participants also included Sina Corp’s Charles Chao and Robin Li of Baidu as well as prominent Chinese ISPs.

The report also stated the companies would be cracking down on “online pornography, Internet fraud and the illegal spread of harmful information on the Internet.”

As an example, microblogging service Sina earlier this year began blocking messages about the Arab Spring uprisings. A search for “Egypt” on the service would return a message stating, “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results are not shown.”

Maio Wei, the country’s Minister of Industry and Information Technology, said these tech companies should also increase “tracking surveillance” of their users.

Chinese Internet censorship has long been part of the country’s online landscape. This fact often causes significantly more consternation for foreign-based companies than for Chinese businesses.

As Google found out last year during a prolonged battle over whether Google.cn would serve censored search results, “The Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.”

Clearly, the firms involved in today’s announcement have no such qualms. Whether the results of this meeting will spell even stricter censorship and surveillance is a matter too veiled in propaganda for Western interpretation; however, China’s general trajectory where web services are concerned has been trending toward less rather than more freedom of information. We suppose that the resolutions adopted by Ma, Li, et al. will steady the nation’s already plotted course.