News & Politics

Apple's Tim Cook 'Proud' to Work With China to Censor Internet

Apple's CEO Tim Cook attends the opening ceremony of the Fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen town in Tongxiang, East China's Zhejiang province, Sunday Dec. 03, 2017. (Chinatopix Via AP)

Tim Cook gave the keynote address at an internet technology conference in China and said he was “proud” to work with the Chinese in helping to build “a community that will join a common future in cyberspace.”


Cook made the comments on Sunday at the opening ceremony for the conference — an event designed to globally promote the country’s vision of a more censored and controlled internet. It’s the second Chinese appearance in two months for the executive, who met with President Xi Jinping in October.

“The theme of this conference — developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits — is a vision we at Apple share,” Cook said. “We are proud to have worked alongside many of our partners in China to help build a community that will join a common future in cyberspace.”

Cook and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai are both making their first trips to the event. The attendance of leaders from two of the world’s most valuable tech giants lends credibility to China’s efforts to influence the global internet so it better resembles its own.

Thanks, Tim, but no thanks. We want the internet to resemble America’s internet. Anything less is dictatorial. When government can decide what sites you can view, what products you can buy, and what people you can interact with on the internet, you lose the kind of personal freedom that makes America exceptional.

Apple has come under fire for cooperating with Chinese authorities in removing apps that give users there uncensored communications. In November, Apple complied with government orders to pull Microsoft Corp.’s Skype phone and video service from the Chinese version of its popular app store. Cook used an earnings call with investors to justify such moves, saying it obeyed the laws of the markets where it operates.

“Much has been said of the potential downsides of AI, but I don’t worry about machines thinking like humans. I worry about people thinking like machines,” he said. “We all have to work to infuse technology with humanity, with our values.”

And Cook’s “values” obviously include trying to allow government to tell you what you can see on the internet. Those who lie down with dogs…

Technology of the future should have openness, creativity and safeguards to protect users while providing privacy and decency, he added.

It’s a goal that, according to Cook’s Chinese hosts, can only be accomplished through more laws and regulations that control what can be shared online. Politburo member Wang Huning called for a global emergency response team that would respond in times of crisis using new and undetermined measures.

Providing “decency” online is music to China’s ears. Think of all the wonderful ways to censor the internet using that vague, nebulous term.

Is Cook so oblivious to the ramifications of what he’s advocating that he can’t see what all this doubletalk by the Chinese means? The goal of the Chinese is nothing less than to control political thought. Why does this sit so well with Cook — and, we presume, other tech giants? Are they so certain that it will be their politics that won’t be censored?

What’s frightening to me is that this is the direction that “freedom of speech” is headed. Someone in government, somewhere is going to determine if certain speech meets standards of “decency” and conforms to the proper “values.”

It’s a recipe for tyranny that the Founders would have seen through in a minute.