July 19, 2006 10:55 PM PDT

Amnesty International targets China cooperation

Amnesty International upped its already-harsh criticism of Internet companies on Wednesday by accusing Google, Microsoft and Yahoo of violating their own principles in China.

In a report titled "Undermining Freedom of Expression in China," the human rights group says that the three Internet companies often talk about offering people new ways to access information. But in practice the companies have bowed to censorship demands from China's ruling Communist Party, the report says.

"This puts a lot of things together," said Jason Disterhoft, an Amnesty International spokesman. "It makes the hypocrisy explicit."

Yahoo, for instance, said in a February 2006 press release: "We are committed to providing individuals with easy access to information and opportunities to openly communicate and exchange views and opinions." But its Yahoo.cn operation has cooperated with Chinese authorities and filters its Chinese search results.

The Amnesty International report (click for PDF) includes no new information about the companies' cooperation with the Chinese government, which has been the subject of criticism from civil liberties groups and members of Congress.

In an e-mail to CNET News.com in response to the report, Google said it "respects the fact that people and organizations, including Amnesty, oppose our decision to launch a search service in China. Google believes that Google.cn will provide significant benefits to Chinese Internet users and that our engagement in China meaningfully expands access to information."

Earlier this year Google launched a filtered Google.cn search engine that does not display certain Web sites disliked by Chinese officials. (Google does inform users of the delistings.)

Yahoo, however, was singled out for particular criticism in the report. Paris-based Reporters Without Borders revealed in September 2005 that information provided by Yahoo was used to convict Shi Tao, a 37-year-old journalist, of leaking "state secrets." Then, in February, the group reported that Yahoo also turned over information that led to the arrest of Li Zhi, a 35-year-old former civil servant from the southwestern province of Dazhou. He was convicted and sentenced to an eight-year prison sentence in 2003.

In response to the new report, Yahoo said in a statement that it has been working with human-rights organizations and government officials to craft better industry policies in nations such as China.

"We continue to employ rigorous procedural protections under applicable laws in response to government requests for information, maintaining our commitment to user privacy and compliance with the law," the statement said. "And we will actively engage in ongoing policy dialogue with governments with respect to the nature of the Internet and the free flow of information."

Microsoft said it would be unable to comment on Wednesday.

Amnesty International hopes the timing of its report will provide additional momentum to a bill that a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee approved last month. Titled the Global Online Freedom Act, it would slap restrictions on companies that do business with "Internet-restricting countries" and create a new federal bureaucracy to deal with the issue.

"The U.S. government has to get serious," said Mila Rosenthal, director of Amnesty International's business and human-rights program. "We haven't seen a lot of action in that department."

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China, cooperation, criticism, Internet company, Yahoo! Inc.


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One reason why these offshoot companies have this sort of problem is because they create, collect, organize and horde information and use it as a way to make money, and sometimes as a tool to a means. Google is sort of the ba--ard child of Microsoft, and what you get when you win on Microsoft's Antitrust bloated platform (metaphorically and truthfully speaking). What stinks is there are people in this world who will hurt you, and can glean personal information from Google's world organization of info. I think new laws should be enacted which would prohibit this behavior, and if a company harms people (in China, or you or anybody with such information - by organizing it, presenting it, and other people taking actions on it), and if that problem becomes chronic and ongoing, then such company should be given dissolution papers. America is so undervalued by people who build off of the corruptness of others. I think this is a very hot button reality that isn't going away tomorrow, and an important subject which should be raised in USA Congress over the coming years (I know I will be pushing for it). Maybe if new laws are enacted we can build a better tomorrow. So, let it be known the pessimistic and bad-people of the World always have a reason for keeping things heavily unequal. If that reason is tainted with even an ounce of mass-harm or hurt from past trust-related behavior issues, then they should be legally required to dissolute [the corporation].
Posted by sotrumon (1 comment )
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American Companies Should Fight Censorship
It is really unfortunate that companies like Google and Yahoo are willing to compromise their values to do business with China. Amnesty International is absolutely valid in labelling their actions a human rights violation. Everyone should have the right to surf the internet privately and securely. I applaud companies like Anonymizer, that are actually combating censorship and offering an anti-censorship solution to the people of China. Lance Cottrell, President of Anonymizer, has been a major figure in fighting internet censorship and has offered anti-censorship solutions to censored people all over the world. Even more impressive, this anti-censorshio solution is made available to the people of China for free. All they have to do is go to www.zidanchun.com and register. So far, this campaign has been very successful!
Posted by cathleen_44 (12 comments )
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