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Government Committees Scrutinize Web Firms Aiding Chinese Censorship

  • Reuters, Friday, January 27, 2006 10:30 AM
U.S. lawmakers next month will probe American technology companies--including Google, Microsoft Yahoo! and Cisco--that aid the Chinese government in censoring content. Representatives from these companies have been summoned to a Congressional Human Rights Caucus hearing on Wednesday and a House of Representatives Subcommittee on Global Human Rights Feb. 16 to discuss the matter. The hearings follow the Google announcement on Tuesday that it would block taboo terms like Tiananmen Square Massacre, Falun Gong, and Tibet from its search terms and not offer chat, e-mail and blog publishing services that could be used for political protest. Human Rights Subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith aimed squarely at Google's corporate motto "Don't be evil" when he said that bowing to Beijing's wishes " would enable evil by cooperating with China's censorship policies just to make a buck." In an interview with Reuters, Smith added: "The question is not whether companies should be promoting democracy. The real question is, should they partner with the secret police in cracking down on dissidents and enabling human rights abuses?" Smith's committee and several other U.S. freedom of speech advocates are calling for legislation that would establish a code of conduct for U.S. Internet companies working in countries deemed "repressive." These groups are asking, among other things, that companies should have to receive special dispensation from the U.S. Department of Commerce to sell censorship equipment to repressive regimes

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