Technology firms attacked for web censorship stance

By Derek Sooman on February 2, 2006, 12:47 PM
Political figures in the US have blasted technology giants such as Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! for failing to appear at a briefing about China's internet censorship. There is now a call for new law to outlaw compliance with such censorship requirements, which would have made it illegal for Google to block access to certain material which the Chinese government deemed unsuitable for its citizens, for example.

Representative Tom Lantos, the California Democrat who is co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which organised the briefing, said: "These massively successful high-tech companies, which couldn't bring themselves to send their representatives to this meeting today, should be ashamed.

"With all their power and influence, wealth and high visibility, they neglected to commit to the kind of positive action that human rights activists in China take every day. They caved in to Beijing's demands for the sake of profits, or whatever else they choose to call it."

Legislation currently being proposed would require US internet service providers to locate their email servers outside of oppressive countries, establish a code of conduct for companies doing business with such regimes and set up a global internet freedom office within the State Department to co-ordinate an international strategy.

Microsoft and Yahoo! issued a joint statement saying that they hoped that the US government would take a leadership stance in opening "government to government" dialogue with China and other countries. This is potentially a huge issue, which will say a lot about free speech in the 21st century, and how far companies are willing to go to increase their customer base.

User Comments: 11

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nathanskywalker said:
[quote]...should be ashamed. [/quote]Yes they should be ashamed, ashamed for allowing themselves to be bullied around by another government. And now ours want to make it "right" by forcing them to do something else another way? That is no right either. Our government has every right to negotiate with the Chinese governmet, but they should not be able to tell companies what to do, and how their companies should be run, even if it is for the better. If our government does this, we are indeed not promoting freedom, but false freemdom, and illusion.
Need_a_Dell said:
It seems like the internet bigwigs are taking a step back and hoping to let the two governments duke it out. This would be one REALLY stupid way to start a war.
Cartz said:
This coming from the government that just last week was trying to force google to release porn search results so they could better protect the nations children from the horrors of porn...Is that hypocracy I smell?
buttus said:
I'd say the biggest threat to personal expression is the Patriot Act and not another countries autonomy over their own cultural or political beliefs.Hello Pot? This is Kettle. You're black!!!!C'mon.
MonkeyMan said:
You know, communism is one ugly issue. China needs to support a free democracy, and they need to think more about their ppl, than about what is good for them. I mean, by censoring certain things such as this, they are making their ppl turn against them. If you are a government, you should allow your citizens to have a voice, and to choose what they prefer to do. Now I'm not saying to legalize illegal things, but China needs to lighten up on the censorship issues. Communism has caused wars, and violent uprisings in almost every country in the world, at some point in their history. Communism is never a good thing, and in some ways, it can isolate a country from the rest of world, and would prevent that country from becoming greater than what it is. Do you know, that if China was to support democracy, they could probably be one of the most powerful countries in the world? did you know that they would possibly be as powerful as the United States, if they were to support a democratic system? Yes, it is true, but the thing is, if they were to become even more powerful by supporting democracy, it would make the United States even richer than it already is? Why do you think Bush was pressing for China to support democracy? because in turn, it would make the U.S. economy rise higher than it has ever been in history. Crazy ideas I know, but it is true. We have so much investments and trade agreements with China, it would blow your mind. To me, China is the key to a very successful U.S. economy.
Vaulden said:
As much as I dislike the censorship being done, the US government should not be limiting the companies. That will only hurt the company by causing China and such countries to look elsewhere for business.If the government really wants something to change they should push the Chinese government to change their ways.
gamingmage said:
Wow this is quite a big thing. The U.S. should not be limiting the company as it is U.S. based, but when it comes to international... I think that China can do what it wants to do if they feel the need for it.
otmakus said:
The US government needs to stop deciding what's good and what's bad for other countries. That's the reason the rest of the world think the US is an arrogant and a bully country. If they walk around naked in their own house because they think it's good, it's fine and well, but they just can't force other people to walk around naked in their own houses too.
Race said:
This news relates to an earlier article concerning the 'Zhao blog', but all comes down to censorship in China.While the 'excuses' these companies gave for not sending representatives to the briefing may be a little hard to buy, even if it was short notice, I do believe that these 'political figures' are over-reacting at this stage.All of these companies have (very) large business interests in China, and I'd like to think they consider the Feb. 15th. House of Representatives meeting (which they are all attending) a more important platform.While these large companies who conduct business in China should speak out on censorship whenever and wherever possible, I absolutely agree that the government needs to take the leadership role. However, as I said before, China 'is what it is' it or not...right or wrong.The legislation being introduced to 'outlaw compliance with censorship requirements' will only hurt U.S. business interests in China, and quite possibly, our own economy. [quote]Google's "current co-operation with the Chinese government on this matter also has prevented the Chinese government from having to respond to complaints from Chinese internet users that they are being denied access to the info they wish to obtain", said Carolyn Bartholomew [/quote]Does anyone besides Carolyn Bartholomew think that the Chinese government would have to respond to censorship complaints from it's people regardless? Chinese internet users are smart enough to know what's going on in their own country.[Edited by Race on 2006-02-03 00:36:12]
Mictlantecuhtli said:
[b]Originally posted by Need_a_Dell:[/b][quote]It seems like the internet bigwigs are taking a step back and hoping to let the two governments duke it out. This would be one REALLY stupid way to start a war.[/quote]Cartoons are even more stupid way.
Mictlantecuhtli said:
[b]Originally posted by Race:[/b][quote]Does anyone besides Carolyn Bartholomew think that the Chinese government would have to respond to censorship complaints from it's people regardless? Chinese internet users are smart enough to know what's going on in their own country.[/quote]How do you know how many results you're supposed to get from search engines? Maybe you're being censored too.
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