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Gates backs China in Google censorship spat

Uh, that's just what the Chinese do

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Lovable, huggable ex-monopolist Bill Gates has more often than not found himself batting for China in a recent publicity drive as head of the Gates Foundation.

On his way to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the Microsoft-chief-turned philanthropist appears unmoved over China's position on internet censorship after Google's recent threats to exit the country.

In an interview Monday with ABC television, Gates shrugged off China's repressive online policies as simply part of doing business in a foreign country. He pointed to censorship laws in Germany that forbid pro-Nazi statements which 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,” Gates said.

He told ABC that the role of the internet in every country has ultimately had positive effect in letting people speak out in new ways. “And fortunately the Chinese efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited. You know, it is easy to go around it.”

Certainly an interesting way to field criticism that Microsoft is complacent in China's online censorship regime.

Two weeks ago, Google said it was among the targets of a widespread, “highly sophisticated” attack originating from China aimed at the Gmail accounts of human rights advocates. Although there's little proof the hack actually came from China – and now reason to doubt the claim – Google's accusations have already won backing from the Obama administration. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, recently demanded that Chinese authorities investigate the attack as part of a broader speech decrying the country's web undeniably strict censorship policies.

Gates went on to tell the New York Times that he was unimpressed by Google's threat after the attack to drop its search business in China in protest of censorship regulations on search results.

“They've done nothing and gotten a lot of credit for it,” Gates sniped at Google, which trails well behind China's home-grown Baidu search engine within the country.

“What point are they making?” he asked. “Now, if Google ever chooses to pull out of the United States, then I'd give them credit.”

But Gates was (rather understandably) not so willing to call the Microsoft rival a monopolist. “I wouldn't call anyone a monopolist,” Gates said. He instead prefers to label Google as part of a small, elite group of “hyper-successful” companies like AT&T, IBM, and Microsoft – which, by the way, have all been legally sanctioned for monopolistic behavior. ®

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