Print 32 comment(s) - last by oTAL.. on Feb 21 at 6:36 AM

Google, Yahoo!, Cisco and Microsoft are all guilty of helping China deny free speech rights to its citizens, according to U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.

The Republican representative from New Jersey lambasted Google, Yahoo!, Cisco and Microsoft in a letter to the Wall Street Journal last week, citing instances in which the companies have helped the Chinese government identify and punish Chinese nationals responsible for pro-democracy postings on the Internet.

This is not the first time U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith has accused U.S. firms of “working hand in glove with dictators,” by turning over Internet records to repressive governments seeking to ferret out political dissidents.  To curtail the practice, Smith is sponsoring legislation designed to  prohibit U.S. Internet companies from cooperating with governments trying to track down and punish democracy advocates. Specifically, Smith’s “Global Online Freedom Act of 2007” bill would make it a crime for Internet companies to turn over personal information to governments who use that information to suppress dissent.  

In his letter to the Journal, Smith recounted testimony at public hearings last April in which representatives of the four Internet companies admitted to participating in government-mandated Internet censorship, or aiding investigations aimed at identifying political activists. "They all acknowledged that their companies have enabled dictatorships to censor democracy and human rights promotion on the Internet," Smith wrote, adding  that "Yahoo! and Cisco have even helped the Chinese government incarcerate Internet users for pro-democracy activity."

In addition to China, Smith has named eight other countries to his list of authoritarian governments. A statement issued by the congressman in January also accused Belarus, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, North Korea, Tunisia and Vietnam of actively blocking, restricting and monitoring the Internet communications of its citizenry.

Smith’s bill would establish civil penalties of up to $2 million for businesses  found guilty of aiding a repressive regime.  Individuals could be fined up  to $100,000 for violations of the new requirements. The legislation would also earmark $50 million for creating an Office of Global Internet Freedom, charged with monitoring abuses and developing a voluntary code of conduct.

Last month, a consoritum of tech companies announced they were already collaborating on their own code of conduct, evidently hoping to soften criticism. Google, Microsoft, Vodafone and Yahoo! revealed that work was underway “to produce a set of principles guiding company behavior when faced with laws, regulations and policies that interfere with the achievement of human rights.” To facilitate the process, the companies have teamed with a variety of organizations, including Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By fk49 on 2/13/2007 10:35:09 PM , Rating: 1
Could this bill backfire on the US government?
I remember that Google refused to turn over its search records to the gov't when MSN and Yahoo did - and of course any of these situations are spun in a lot of legalese - but essentially Google, by defying the gov't, did what this Congressional bill now proposes.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By Samus on 2/13/2007 10:44:12 PM , Rating: 4
Sometimes people forget, republicans are democrats too.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By selfexiled on 2/13/2007 11:36:25 PM , Rating: 2
I was about to say, I was surprised that this Congressman is a Republican.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By Ringold on 2/14/07, Rating: -1
RE: Hypocrisy?
By cheetah2k on 2/13/2007 11:44:27 PM , Rating: 2
There will always be "double standards"

RE: Hypocrisy?
By Pythias on 2/14/2007 12:31:15 AM , Rating: 2
Absolutely. They're all politicians and care only about votes. Votes to keep them in office where they can stay bought by whatever lobbyist has their least until the next highest paying lobbyist comes along.

Also he left Apple of his list.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By THEiNTERNETS on 2/13/2007 11:41:40 PM , Rating: 5
It is quite ironic that Google would say no to turning over records to the US government and the oblige the Chinese government's censorship requirements.

This is a tricky situation, but as far as I can tell, if this was any other country in the world doing the same totalitarian stuff, there is no way the US would be allowing its companies to do this. China gets white glove treatment because it's a cashcow as a capitalist-totalitarian mix.

If we were talking about the mind-control that goes on North Korea you can bet something like google.nk would not even be a discussion. It would be criminal. We tend to gloss over China's own mind control but it's rather shocking. Students at prestigious universities in that country have never heard of the "Tienamen Square Riots" or the man that stood in front of the tank--they are whitewashing history and we are letting them do it.

My father is a scientist at a major state university; his lab often has several Chinese post-doctoral students--brilliant young men. You should hear the things they say about the Japanese out loud; I guess when your high school text books are state-controlled, indoctrination is rather simple.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By Pythias on 2/14/2007 12:33:40 AM , Rating: 1
I guess when your high school text books are state-controlled, indoctrination is rather simple.

Textbooks are state-controlled just about everywhere.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By THEiNTERNETS on 2/14/2007 1:25:05 AM , Rating: 3
You are using a much, MUCH different meaning of state there buddy. I'm talking about the Communist Party, you're talking about Kentucky.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By fayer on 2/14/2007 3:31:50 AM , Rating: 2
watch the documentary "Nanjing" shoot by the American, you will know more about Japanese. And you will know your text book is state-controlled as well.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By mino on 2/14/2007 6:04:51 AM , Rating: 2
US 'Intelligent Design' anyone ?


RE: Hypocrisy?
By Pythias on 2/14/2007 11:50:01 AM , Rating: 2
You are using a much, MUCH different meaning of state there buddy. I'm talking about the Communist Party, you're talking about Kentucky.

No, I'm talking about government, period.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By jskirwin on 2/14/2007 5:28:47 PM , Rating: 2
No, I'm talking about government, period.

So there's no difference between a school board - a "government" composed of citizens and voted into/out of office by citizens - and the Communist government in China?

Where'd you learn civics - becaue you might want to ask for a refund.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By hergieburbur on 2/15/2007 1:35:23 AM , Rating: 2
If you think our history textbooks are censored to present specific views on things, you should try reading some real history sometime.

A couple of examples:

You very rarely see mention of Andersonville in US Civil War history.

You NEVER see them talk about the fact that the Japanese used biological weapons and experimented on American POWs in WWII, because after the war we needed them as an ally and buffer against the Soviet Union in the Pacific, and thus we needed to ease the cultural distrust that had resulted from the war.

You also see very little mention of the fact that much of what is now Silicon Valley was stolen of US citizens of Japanese descent when we put them in concentration camps during the war.

And this isn't even getting into Native Americans and smallpox blankets, etc.

Want more examples? I can go on all day. We have the freedom of information in this country only in so far as we are free to seek out that information. It is not always provided for us via mainstream methods.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By hergieburbur on 2/15/2007 1:37:01 AM , Rating: 2
I meant aren't censored...

WHEN are they going to get an edit button?

RE: Hypocrisy?
By rdeegvainl on 2/15/2007 3:34:58 PM , Rating: 2
I do remember learning about the smallox on blankets back in the 5th grade. Learned about it out of a textbook too. can't remember who put it out though.

RE: Hypocrisy?
By hergieburbur on 2/15/2007 3:42:41 PM , Rating: 2
As I said, its very rare to see these things, but some textbooks/teachers do mention some of them.

Feel free to replace that with the fact that we were selling arms and Mustard gas to Germany in WWI, which were later used to kill US soldiers in WWI after we joined the war on the opposing side.

Remember, history is almost always told be the Victor, and thats why the "good guys" (There seldom truly are any) always win.

By Nik00117 on 2/14/2007 1:10:01 PM , Rating: 4
What google, yahoo, and cisco etc are doing are complying with China laws.

As a wise man once said

"When in a mans house, you follow that mans rules"

Yahoo, Google, and Cisco are doing that. We shouldn't punish for american companies being law abiding companies in other countries.

In china they don't got freedom of speech, in America they do. You can't apply American laws to China Business enviorment.

RE: Why?
By kattanna on 2/14/2007 4:57:04 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Why?
By jskirwin on 2/14/2007 5:33:26 PM , Rating: 2
By this logic you would:

Not be upset about US chemical firms supplying Nazi Germany with poison gas to kill the Jews - which BTW they didn't.

Not be upset with German firms supplying Iraq with poison gas to kill the Kurds - wich BTW the Germans did.

This is the kind of amoral "it's just business" attitude that allows the Mafia, drug dealers and dictatorships to thrive worldwide.


RE: Why?
By GaryJohnson on 2/14/2007 6:00:32 PM , Rating: 2
Is it the responsibility and right of the United States to impose its moral and cultural standards upon other sovereign states?

RE: Why?
By PrezWeezy on 2/14/2007 7:30:25 PM , Rating: 2
I was very very upset about the things that Sadam did, however I was completely against his US imposed removal. It isn't up to us to be the the moral police of the world. If the Chinese people want something different, they are going to have to fight for it. Just like the United States had to do with the Revolutionary War. And what the Confederates tried to do with the Civil War. The influence of the United States will never change the Chinese government. We are going to see this very soon when Iraq falls flat on their ass and everyone starts to blame the US. The attitude of the people has to change before the government will change. And the Mafia and drug dealers have their place in the world too. Without some evil to fight, what do we have to stand together against? We have enough problems to deal with at home, let's not start getting involved in the politics and practices of other countries. Maybe when we are perfect here we can start telling other people what to do.

Besides that, there is a reason the UN exists, let them deal with it. We helped create it, and now we are the number one biggest offender of it's laws. What kind of example does that set for the rest of the countries and how they should act?

RE: Why?
By Tanclearas on 2/15/2007 11:13:41 AM , Rating: 2
You are comparing differences in cultural morality to ethnic cleansing. There is more than just a subtle difference.

RE: Why?
By Hoser McMoose on 2/15/2007 3:12:41 PM , Rating: 2
Congratulations indeed on providing a text-book example of a "straw man" argument. Let us know when Google's censorship starts killing hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens.

Going along with your straw man argument, keep in mind that the US is the world's largest weapons supplier, and many US weapons have been used by many countries around the world to kill a lot of people. I'm sure Syria, Jordan and Egypt don't see the US supplying Israel with weapons as being any better then you see Germany supplying Iraq with weapons.

The fact is that the US government only has only a couple recourses here. They can do the smart thing and shut the hell up, or they can prevent that all *American* search engine companies from selling any search engine products in China. That would be a very dumb move since it would surely result in Google and Yahoo at least moving their corporate headquarters elsewhere, completely beyond the control of the US government.

RE: Why?
By clnee55 on 2/15/2007 11:44:53 AM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about. There IS freedom of speech in CHina. it is called "Freedom before Speech"

Blame China's Market power
By selfexiled on 2/14/2007 4:10:07 AM , Rating: 2
Without a free democracy there can not be a free market. The "hypocracy" of google is easy to rationalize. The Chinese Government controls many of the information/technology market especially with regards to the internet. They control the flow of Google's product so to speak. Of course Google is going to oblige with a request of the Chinese Government.

Unless Google feels like being number 2 to Yahoo! in China it'd be absolute suicide to piss off the Chinese Government at that point. There's no court of appeals to go through, no writs of subpoena or even National Security Letters. China doesn't need them, Google asked for the government's permission to provide their service on the PRC land. If google refused to comply here's what they would have had, no legal recourse and one large source of revenue shut down.

In fact, when it comes to China this law is a slap on the wrist compared to the pain any company is going to feel if they were to shoot themselves on the foot by not complying with the Chinese Government. I'm not condoning it as appropriate, but free countries don't have free markets.

RE: Blame China's Market power
By oTAL on 2/21/2007 6:36:20 AM , Rating: 2
The real competition isn't even yahoo. It's a local search engine (Baidu, or something...) which provided a faster, more reliable, search. With Google having a foothold in China, they even out the field in access time and reliability and allow for their superior technology to win over costumers. service was kinda lame on China from what I read around the net...

Better they are there than not
By ralith on 2/14/2007 9:32:03 AM , Rating: 2
At least if they are there they can influence the country some through some exchange of ideas on a one on one basis, but while they are in that country they have to live by the laws of the land just like we expect them to here. A better way to spend time would be to try using the most favored nation status as the carrot to dangle out there to influence change. All this bill is going to accomplish is to force these internet companies to find a different home country, and let me tell you there are a LOT out there that will take them. On top of that the moron congressman WANTS to start another government organization. Definitely NOT a Republican.

By hergieburbur on 2/15/2007 1:26:30 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, I'm in NJ, and he is what passes for a Republican here. A Republican here would probably be a democrat in Tennessee for example.

As for Republicans never expanding government or adding agencies, thats a fallacy, ever hear of the Department of Homeland Security?

That being said, I didn't vote for the guy, and this is just another moronic bill to get media attention. Its hilariously sad that we selectively apply our standards for how our companies conduct business overseas, based on the value of the company and the country in question.

I think this guy needs a headcheck
By verndewd on 2/14/2007 6:46:32 PM , Rating: 2
If he wants to attack companies for allowing china to define its own web activities,and force other countries web content providers to follow suit;He may as well go over and preach that jesus is more powerful than the state,and get himself killed.

Stop sympathizing and let china be china,While the government is oppressive,they lack the level of perversity that plagues america.On penalty of death.I talk with alot of chinese people,I understand their government policy as it relates to the public.

They dont want the western sickness,They want the unity that even the usa lacks;and they appreciate the wisdom of purity from the social hell created by selling violence and sex.They have an edge on the world,they lack the liberal perversions.I for one hope it stays that way.

By leexgx on 2/14/2007 10:47:53 PM , Rating: 2
i guess you was going to get shot if you did not post that in here

Chinese Dissidents
By Cypherdude1 on 2/14/2007 3:48:22 AM , Rating: 2
It would be best NOT to be a Chinese dissident, lest you find your kidney and liver inside a rich westerner. ;^D

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki