Gates: Net Censorship Impossible

LISBON — “The ability to really withhold information no longer exists,” Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told government representatives earlier this week. Speaking during an Internet forum in Portugal, Gates all but told officials to leave the Internet alone, saying no matter what governments do, information people want to get out always will find a way online.

The forum, part of a Microsoft-sponsored event for international dignitaries, was organized by the company to discuss the Internet as a tool for the public sector, touching on its use in everything from mass-transit management to parking ticket administration.

But Gates also said that the Internet was far too efficient to be fully controlled by any governmental institution, a clear reference to highly publicized moves by China over the last year to constrict Internet access from within the country.

Late last year, Microsoft came under fire when it complied with a Beijing request to shut down a popular political blog run by a Chinese journalist. Yahoo also faced criticism last year for similar actions, one of which led to a local activist’s arrest and imprisonment for writing what the government called “anti-Chinese ideals.”

“You may be able to take a very visible website and say that something shouldn't be there,” Gates said. “But if there's a desire by the population to know something, it's going to get out very broadly.”

Earlier this week, representatives at Microsoft announced the company would be changing its policy on blog management soon, including how the company complies with shutdown requests. No further information was given.