China's communist government is quietly boosting its internet censorship capabilities, including the filters that discourage unwanted religious material and political dissent, an international group of researchers reported this month. Their study concluded that state officials use a combination of technology and complex regulations to control online expression, especially any pro-Western, anti-Communist, or opposition political speech.
The report issued by the OpenNet Initiative supports the widely held belief that China's filtering system is the world's most draconian online censorship effort. While Chinese can read CNN, MSNBC, and ABC News sites, they will find the BBC blocked.
OpenNet says Chinese officials are vague and secretive about what they block and leave no room for citizens to complain that a favorite site was censored. The researchers predict that China may soon overtake the United States as the world's most internet-linked country, and it may inspire other nations to copy the government's tactics for discouraging dissent.
The latest courtroom drama spawned by the Enron scandal began last week and involves an alleged hype campaign surrounding the company's broadband network. Five former executives pleaded innocent to charges that they artificially inflated Enron's stock price with false hype about the network's capabilities or faked earnings from a doomed deal with Blockbuster.
Enron Broadband Services began as part of a utility the company acquired in 1997. Later, several executives claimed that a super-powered network was up and running, surpassed competitors' systems, and would bring in billions of dollars. Yet the network did not pass the testing stage and the venture went bankrupt with the rest of Enron in 2001.
Prosecutors say this was more than just another case of 1990s internet exuberance. They say three of the defendants (former unit CEO Joseph Hirko, and former vice presidents Rex Shelby and F. Scott Yeager) tried to pocket millions of dollars from sales of hype-inflated shares.
The other two men (ex-mid-level broadband executives Michael Krautz and Kevin Howard) are charged with faking $111 million in earnings in 2000 and 2001 from a failed Blockbuster deal. A pair of former co-defendants already pleaded guilty to different charges and promised to cooperate with prosecutors.
Bits & Megabytes
· The Recording Industry Association of America, the major music labels' trade group, announced plans to sue 405 students at 18 colleges who allegedly traded copyrighted songs on Internet2, a super-fast network intended for research. The movie industry's trade group also plans its own series of lawsuits against students who it claims abuse the next-generation connectivity offered by their schools. Millions of students at dozens of universities have access to Internet2, which can transfer a DVD-quality movie in about 30 seconds.
· Apple will let loose Tiger, the latest upgrade to the Mac OS X operating system, at the end of this month with a standard price of $129 for an individual user license. The developers say this new version includes Spotlight, an improved desktop search tool-that scours hard drives for documents, contacts, images, and other data-along with new video, chat, and task-scheduling features. Tiger also adds an internet accessory called Dashboard that displays weather forecasts, stock quotes, phone numbers, airline flights, and other information.
· Microsoft will pay Gateway $150 million to end a long dispute that arose from the federal antitrust case of the 1990s. The computer maker promised to release its claims and use the money to build up products that run Microsoft's software. Over the past two years, Microsoft has spent about $3 billion to settle private antitrust lawsuits filed by Time Warner, Sun Microsystems, and others.