Congress takes on search companies over China

Bloggers report on the China hearing as it happens, Congressmen are angry, companies basically stonewall.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on
Rebecca McKinnon is blogging live from the House hearings on Internet censorship in China. And there are others, including RedState, Tim Chapman, the right-wing Human Events Online, and even the Times.

The story so far from McKinnon:

Tom Lantos: “your abhorrent activities in China are a disgrace. I simply do not understand how your corporate leadershp sleeps at night.” Citing the parallel between complying with Chinese censorship and complying with German government censorship of Nazi websites is “beneath contempt.” The German government is acting as democratic representative of the people. China has rubber stamp parliament, the Chinese government has no moral qualms about suppressing religious and political dissent. If the Chinese govt passes a law saying that all women are forbidden to use email will Google comply?


“These companies tell us that they will change China. But china has already changed them.”


Rep. Chris Smith:


“I hope this hearing might be the beginning of a different sort of dialogue – a discussion on how American high-tech firms can partner with the U.S. government and human rights activists to bring down the Great Firewall of China, and on how America’s greatest software engineers can use their intelligence to create innovative new products to protect dissidents and promote human rights.”


Yahoo's  Michael Callahan, Senior VP and General Counsel:


 “Let me make one final comment about the role of the U.S. government. We urge the U.S. government to take a leadership role on a government-to-government basis. The Internet industry in the United States, including the companies appearing before you today, have changed the way the world communicates, searches for, discovers, and shares information. No other medium in history has the potential to effect such great change so rapidly. We operate businesses that transcend boundaries, in a world of countries and borders .The strength of this industry and the power of our user base is formidable to be sure. But, we cannot do it alone. We will do everything we can to advance these principles. Ultimately, the greatest leverage lies with the U.S. government.” [McKinnon: "Passing the buck? Sounds like it to me."]

From the Times, Google's Eliot Shrage:

 "Many, if not most, of you here know that one of Google's corporate mantras is 'Don't be evil.' " Mr. Schrage of Google said in his statement. "Some of our critics — and even a few of our friends — think that phrase arrogant, or naïve or both. It's not. It's an admonition that reminds us to consider the moral and ethical implications of every single business decision we make," the statement continued. "We believe that our current approach to China is consistent with this mantra."

Oh, please. Microsoft comes off somewhat better.

 The example that has received the most attention to our services in China involved the removal of a well-known blogging site on MSN Spaces authored under the pseudonym of “Michael Anti” at the request of the Chinese government. The details of that case have been carefully reviewed, and although we do not think we could have changed the Chinese government’s determination to block this particular site, we regret having to do so and have since clarified the manner in which we will deal with similar requests in the future.




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