Posts Tagged ‘China’

China’s rulers will ultimately take it upon themselves to dismantle the “great firewall” that limits its people’s access to the Internet because doing so will boost China’s economy, the inventor of the World Wide Web said.

In an interview about his World Wide Web Foundation’s rankings of the way 81 countries manage the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee, a London-born computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989, also scolded the United States for undermining the Internet’s foundations with its surveillance programmes.

Revelations about the scale of that surveillance and poor rural penetration rates pushed the United States from second place into fourth in the survey, which examined Internet access, freedom and content. Sweden came out on top for the second year.

But it was China, which the survey ranked at 57 out of 81, down from a ranking of 29 out of 61 last year, where Berners-Lee saw the greatest potential for improvement.

“The Berlin Wall tumbled down, the great firewall of China – I don’t think it will tumble down, I think it will be released,” he told Reuters by telephone.

“My hope is that bit-by-bit, quietly, website-by-website, it will start to be relaxed,” he said. “The agility of a country which allows full access to the web is just greater; it will be a stronger country economically as well.”

China’s state Web-censorship system blocks Facebook, Twitter and some foreign news sites as well as content that the Communist leadership considers damaging to stability and cohesion.

“The citizens are not really in a position to smash the great firewall because the government controls the Internet, the Internet companies,” said Berners-Lee, 58.

“All that can happen is that the government realises it is not in their interests, that it is holding up the economy, holding up the development of the country.”

Berners-Lee said he was encouraged that the increased use of social media had stoked political mobilisation across the planet, but cautioned that growing surveillance and censorship threatened the future of democracy.

SPYING VS FREEDOM

Berners-Lee took particular aim at eavesdropping conducted by the United States and Britain, saying the extent of the spying laid bare by US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden showed that rights had been set back.

“The rights of the individual have been severely eroded and eroded in secret,” he said of the US and British surveillance programmes. “It is a very serious threat to the Internet.”

While he admitted the state needed the power to tackle criminals using the Internet, he called for greater oversight over spy agencies such Britain’s GCHQ and the NSA, and over any organisations collecting information about private individuals.

“It is clear in the case of the US and the UK that there just has not been that oversight and accountability to the public,” he said.

“Whatever oversight you have has to be very strong, have the ability to find things out and strong rights to be told things … It has got to be very seriously independent and accountable directly to the public rather than accountable through some secret route to part of government.”

Britain’s spy chiefs have argued that media reports about Snowden’s revelations have weakened the ability of the security services to stop those plotting deadly attacks against the West.

Britain came third in the rankings, the same as in 2012 but below Norway in second place. Russia, the world’s biggest energy producer, was at 41 in the ranking.

A map of the world produced by Berners-Lee’s foundation showed Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as countries which extensively censored political content.

So was it really worth inventing the World Wide Web, and has it been a force for good or for evil?

“Overall, it has been a staggering force for good because it has been so empowering for humanity,” he said. “Humanity is basically good, creative and collaborative.”

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The report alleged the phones were crashing due to faulty memory chips and criticised its repair policies.

Samsung, which generates nearly 14% of its overall revenue from China. said it would provide free repairs for the seven models mentioned in the report.

In a separate development Samsung was also fined by Taiwanese authorities.

Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission levied a fine of fined 10m Taiwanese dollars ($340,000; £210,000) over allegations that Samsung had paid money to people to criticise rival’s products.

Growing scrutiny
China is the world’s second largest economy and the most populous country,

The combination of a growing economy, rising income levels and a large consumer base has made it a key market for leading global firms.

However, as foreign companies continue to grow their business in China, they have come under increased scrutiny.

Samsung, which is the latest foreign firm to be criticised in the Chinese media, said in statement that it “sincerely apologises” to Chinese consumers for inconveniences caused by the company’s “management problems” and that it welcomed the media scrutiny.

The models mentioned in the China Central Television (CCTV) report on Samsung, which was aired earlier this week, include the Galaxy S3 and the Note2 phones.

Earlier this week, a separate report on CCTV claimed that Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, was charging higher prices in China than in other major markets.

It alleged that Starbucks earned higher margins in China due to its pricing.

In April, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook apologised to Chinese consumers following two weeks of criticism by state-owned media over its repair and warranty policies,

The media accused the firm of arrogance, greed and of “throwing its weight around”.

Taiwan trouble
The fine in Taiwan came after an inquiry by the Fair Trade Commission alleged that Samsung had hired the services of an advertising firm, OpenTide Taiwan, to help it with online marketing.

Sun Lih-Chyun, vice chairperson and spokesman, told the BBC’s Cindy Sui in Taipei that its investigations had indicated that OpenTide had hired students and bloggers to post remarks about Samsung and also criticise rivals’ products.

He added that OpenTide gave weekly and monthly reports to Samsung, on online remarks, which indicated that Samsung was fully aware of what was going on.

OpenTide was also fined 3m Taiwanese dollars by the commission for its role.

The allegations had first come to light in April this year.

At that time, Samsung had called the incidents “unfortunate” and said they had gone against the company’s “fundamental principles”.In early 2013, Samsung was fined by Taiwanese authorities for an advert that misled consumers about the camera on the Galaxy Y Duo.

Move aside Facebook and Skype. Asian social networks, already hugely popular on their continent, have set their sights on Europe where they could prove stiff competition for their US rivals.

China’s WeChat and Japan’s Line, which let users make free calls, send instant messages and post funny short videos and photos, take attributes from Facebook, Skype and messenging application WhatsApp and roll them all together.

This week, Line executives travelled to France and Italy for a public relations offensive aimed at raising awareness of the mobile app, which already counts some 230 million users around the world including 47 million in Japan alone.

The social network has already taken root in other parts of Europe. In Spain, for instance, Line has forged heavyweight partnerships with football clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, brands such as Coca-Cola or tennis star Rafael Nadal.

FC Barcelona, for instance, has a home page on the app where it posts photos that has already drawn more than 8.2 million friends.

Line even has a permanent office in Spain, where it counts some 15 million users already.

A French version of the mobile app, meanwhile, is to be launched before the end of the year.

One of the main selling points for Line, which was launched at the beginning of 2011, is its “stickers” — funny, cartoon-like figures that express emotions in a way deemed far more original and fun than traditional emoticons.

On WeChat, users can post figures that move about dancing, blowing kisses or punching the air. Both social networks also supply a selection of “stickers” that users have to pay for.

“We’re betting a lot on this new form of communication with stickers,” Sunny Kim, assistant director general of Line Europe and America, told AFP on a trip to Paris.

This part of the business represents 30 percent of Line’s overall turnover and in July alone, users bought eight million euros ($10.8 million) worth of stickers.

The company makes the rest of its money on the sale of games integrated in the mobile app (50 percent) and from partnerships and products on the side.

Line’s logo is green with a conversation bubble inside, and looks remarkably similar to the icon of WeChat, which began in January 2011.

Already translated into 19 languages, the social network has 500 million users, including 100 million outside of China, and plans to launch in France towards the end of the year.

While Line has Real Madrid, WeChat has enrolled the help of Argentinian football star Lionel Messi, who has become ambassador of the brand and has filmed a commercial for the social network.

But WeChat — which belongs to China’s web giant Tencent — is also banking on the huge Chinese diaspora to expand.

“The French of Chinese origin or the Canadians of Chinese origin, for instance, are the bridge between China and the rest of the world,” said Renaud Edouard-Baraud, who heads up an Asia consulting branch of the BNP-Paribas bank and advises WeChat.

Many brands keen to tap into the giant China market also have a presence on WeChat.Companies can for instance use geolocalisation to pinpoint the exact location of Chinese users when they are visiting Europe, and send them promotional offers to lure them into their shops.