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Weibo, the microblogging service, began trading on Thursday. (Getty Images)[/caption]Last week many newspapers worldwide spoke at length about the initial public offering (IPO) of Weibo, the Chinese state-controlled and censored “twitter,” in the U.S. stock market.
I know that in today’s world it is very difficult to be surprised or shocked by any news, since the amount of “shocking” news that we receive is overwhelming, but think about it: isn’t it amazing to see a communication service for citizens that is officially controlled, state-managed and censored by the Chinese Communist Party, enter with fanfare into the Temple of Capitalism - Wall Street, New York, U.S.A.?
Yes, I believe it is amazing, but this is the world in which probably the notions of Communism and Capitalism do not mean anything anymore: it is just about making money.
And in fact, mostly, the comments on this news focused on the good performance of the price of the stocks, which closed its first day 19 percent above the initial price, which was reportedly set at the bottom of the expected range.
But, to tell the truth there were also several comments about the fact that this is a service provided to citizens – who are in theory supposed to communicate freely - and that instead it is subject to the official censorship of the Chinese Government. Any time issues disliked by the authorities are discussed (guess what, for example protests or self-immolations in Tibet or the fate of the arrested Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo) they are immediately removed from the Weibo forum.
So, the question was and still is: can a communication service that is censored by the state continue to keep and increase its “customers” in the long term? Actually, it was reported earlier this year by an official source that after some episodes of censorship, Weibo has lost nine percent of its user base.
Although, I believe that the implementation of this Orwellian dream of total control of the public debate in China is destined to fail miserably, the Chinese authorities keep trying hard, and this is already resulting in a decrease of users and in mistrust in the Weibo service.
But now there is a question I would like you to answer as a citizen and a potential investor in the U.S. stock market. Would you find it ethical and legitimate to invest your money (to make money) in a service that is subject to official censorship according to the desires of the Chinese Communist Party? Would you support with your money a service that goes against the right to free speech?
At ICT we have started to look closely at the issue of business ethics, corporate social responsibility and how these principles can play a role in promoting the human rights and the civil liberties of Tibetans.
For me, it would be extremely valuable to extend the discussion and the debate. Maybe Weibo could be an interesting starting point.