February 1, 2006 12:42 PM PST

Politicos attack tech firms over China

WASHINGTON--Politicians on Wednesday attacked Google, Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Yahoo for declining to appear at a briefing about China's Internet censorship and called for a new law to outlaw compliance with such requirements.

The four technology companies said earlier this week that they were not able to schedule an appearance with short notice but would testify at a similar House of Representatives hearing scheduled for Feb. 15.

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

"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."
--Rep. Tom Lantos

"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," Lantos went on. "They caved in to Beijing's demands for the sake of profits, or whatever else they choose to call it."

Because his caucus is not an actual congressional committee, it does not have the power to compel companies to testify at its hearings. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations, which plans to convene a Feb. 15 hearing on the topic, does have that force.

Rep. Christopher Smith, the New Jersey Republican who chairs the subcommittee holding the Feb. 15 hearing, showed up late at Wednesday's briefing to issue a reminder that he and his colleagues are working on a draft legislation related to the foreign censorship matter.

"Our request to these companies is: Reverse yourselves; you can," he said.

A draft of the legislation was not ready Wednesday. But Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Smith, said the proposal would likely require American Internet service providers to locate their e-mail 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 coordinate an international strategy.

Cisco, for its part, distributed a statement at Tuesday's briefing confirming its attendance at Smith's upcoming hearing. The company acknowledged again that it sells its routers in China but that their inherent features, including the ability to filter content, are no different from those sold in any other country, including the United States.

Yahoo and Microsoft issued a joint statement in which they encouraged the U.S. government to step up and take a leadership role in opening "government to government" dialogues with China and other countries "where Internet content is treated more restrictively." Google's senior policy counsel, Andrew McLaughlin, echoed that idea in a blog entry and apologized for Google's absence, which he owed to "previously scheduled commitments."

The absence of the tech companies left Wednesday's briefing heavy on commentary from human rights activists and a representative from a U.S.-China governmental advisory panel.

Several of those representatives accused each of the firms of squelching cyberdissidents or caving into the Chinese government in some way. Google, which launched a censorship-friendly version of its search engine in China last week, was a particular magnet for criticism.

The search giant's "current cooperation 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, acting chairwoman of the congressionally appointed U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. She said China has the most sophisticated Internet-filtering system in the world and tens of thousands of "Internet police" on its payroll.

Bartholemew and several of the human rights representatives called for new legislation that would penalize companies that aided in censorship activities--an idea that had Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, the briefing's chief organizer, nodding in agreement.

At the very least, Congress needs to pass legislation that would prohibit companies from turning over customer names to the Chinese government, Tim Malinowski of Human Rights Watch argued. He was referring largely to a recent incident in which Yahoo was accused of turning over personal e-mail records belonging to a Chinese journalist, leading to his conviction for leaking state secrets and a decadelong prison sentence.

John Palfrey, director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, cautioned that new laws should only come into play if the technology industry can't work out the problems on its own.

Instead, he argued, Congress should encourage the industry to develop a set of guiding principles for companies--what he called a "common ethical pathway."

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, a Texas Democrat who sits on the human rights caucus, appeared briefly to appeal to the absentee firms.

"This may be a time for a principle stand, because when you make a principle stand now, today, tomorrow the world will be open to so many who are now suffering under the oppression of censorship," she said. "So I would encourage my friends in the world of technology...that this is the time to cherish the Bill of Rights more than you've ever cherished it before."

54 comments

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need some carrot with that stick
These companies are caving in to demands from foreign governments because Congress hasn't offered any protections to shield them within our own legal system. Remember how eBay was forced to cancel auctions for Nazi memorabilia because their executives faced criminal prosecution from the French Government? Unless the US government is willing to take an active interest in those cases and use its diplomatic and legal might to protect our companies, they have no choice, based upon the economic consequences, but to cave in. Treaties are the solution to a lot of these problems, but that takes political leadership. Congress and the President have the job of making the world safe for saying "no" to dictators, not heads of corporations.
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yep
Yeah, basically, these countries can sue our companies for not sensoring themselves online and the US govt doesn't do anything to stop it. Then, some in our govt are going to ***** when these same companies censor themselves to avoid these same possible lawsuits. What a bad joke.
Posted by MrHandle (71 comments )
Link Flag
Will these same laws apply to countries that violate the human rights of people on foreign soil including killing innocent children with remote control drones, renditions and torture, and their own spy operations by government agents or "contractors"?

This is a joke. The US no longer has standing on human rights or the rule of law. And as long as Goggle operates the site Goggle.ru in the Russian Federation, or the US for that matter, what kind of high moral ground do they occupy with their 'Do no evil" creed?

BTW, Goggle has appearently no respect for the intellectual property rights of artists, writers and scientists it makes billions off of my appropriating their work on YouTube, Goggle Books, etc., and we will soon see in the French couts how internatinal copyright laws apply to this monopolistic company, and whether the US honors it's commitments to international copyright treaties any more than it does the Geneva Convention prohibiting torture.

Sorry, Razzi, but the US is no good example, and dispite the PR of Obama, the situation is pretty much unchanged. It's about time Americans got off the high horse and faced reality.
Posted by koIam (176 comments )
Link Flag
I see several dozen S&P 500 companies in the same boat
My business is socially responsible investing. I pulled up my handy dandy Ideals Work database and pulled up a list of companies that had knocks on them for either "ties to Chinese government" or "ties to oppressive regimes". I came up with the list below. Obviously, Google is not showing up yet. It's not pretty. Perhaps these congressional reps should first check to see who donated to their campaign, and haul them all in. I would be happy to elaborate on these further. My email is below.

Altria Group, Inc. MO
American Standard Companies Inc. ASD
Andrew Corp ANDW
BJ Services Company BJS
Baker Hughes Incorporated BHI
Bard (CR) Inc BCR
Caterpillar Inc CAT
Chevron Corp CVX
Cisco Systems Inc CSCO
Citigroup Inc. C
Conagra Foods Inc. CAG
ConocoPhillips COP
Corning Inc GLW
Danaher Corp DHR
Du Pont (E I) de Nemours DD
EOG Resources, Inc. EOG
Ecolab Inc ECL
Electronic Data Systems Corp. EDS
Emerson Electric Co EMR
Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM
Fluor Corp. FLR
Ford Motor Co F
General Electric Co GE
General Motors Corp. GM
Halliburton Co. HAL
Heinz (H J) Co HNZ
Hewlett-Packard Co. HPQ
IMS Health Inc. RX
ITT Industries, Inc. ITT
Ingersoll-Rand Company Limited IR
International Business Machines Corp. IBM
International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. IFF
Johnson & Johnson JNJ
Johnson Controls Inc JCI
Kerr-McGee Corp. KMG
Kimberly-Clark Corp KMB
Lockheed Martin Corp. LMT
Lucent Technologies Inc. LU
Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. MMC
Microsoft Corp. MSFT
Monsanto Co. MON
NCR Corporation NCR
Newmont Mining Corp. (Holding Company) NEM
Nike Inc NKE
Noble Corp NE
Occidental Petroleum Corp OXY
Omnicom Group Inc. OMC
Oracle Corp ORCL
PepsiCo, Inc. PEP
Pfizer Inc. PFE
Raytheon Co. RTN
Reynolds American Inc RAI
Sara Lee Corp SLE
Schlumberger Ltd SLB
Starbucks Corp SBUX
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide HOT
Sun Microsystems Inc SUNW
The Clorox Company CLX
The Coca-Cola Company KO
The Dow Chemical Company DOW
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. GT
The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. IPG
The Procter & Gamble Company PG
Thermo Electron Corp. TMO
Transocean Inc. RIG
Tyco International Ltd. TYC
Unisys Corp UIS
United Parcel Service, Inc. UPS
Waste Management, Inc. WMI
Xerox Corp XRX
Yum Brands, Inc. YUM

Mark Brandon
Sustainable Log - News and Views for Socially Responsible Investors
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://sustainablelog.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://sustainablelog.blogspot.com</a>
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When you subscribe to Sustainable Log, we give $1 to Alternative Gifts International in support of a cause of your choice.
Posted by 208mbrandon (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think you should not have anything to do with any of these companies including using internet resources that may be related to their products or services, that would be hippocritical and very uncool, Dude.

May I ask in what way the US government is more ocially responsible or lees damageing than the Chinese government?

Suggest you ask the famillies of civillians killed by US drones, maybe they would have something to say about the issue.
Posted by koIam (176 comments )
Link Flag
So...
So the government cares when other governments are oppressive, but not when they are themselves...I'm mainly talking about all the video game laws stuff thats been happening lately.
Posted by Hobo453567 (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Duh, the pathetic voice of all congressmen
"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."
--Rep. Tom Lantos

You too Tom. You should be ashamed of being such a corrupted congressman. One i've never even heard of before...Maybe you can enlighten all of us as to why our government rakes the american public for billions of dollar to make 10 million dollar "underwater hammers" and "space pens".
Posted by SystemsJunky (409 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's pretty ironic...
..that Congress would get so exercised about Google et. al cooperating with China's repression of Internet users, but they don't seem at all concerned about the administrations' recent fishing trips to get records of all the searches on an engine for an entire month. Still it's heartwarming to hear our representatives talking the talk, even though they'd probably change their tune if Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo contributed to their campaign warchests.
Posted by KittyMartyr (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
give me a break
I think congress is being a bit hypocritical, but what's new.

But I can't fathom who on the planet would equate what happens to people in China with wanting a rating system for computer games. The two are not even in the same universe relating to each other.

Just another example of spoiled soft westerners who have no idea how they got what they have or what is happening to others out there in the real world.

Unbelievable
Posted by kxmmxk (320 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Doesn't Wal-Mart get a TON of their goods
from China? It's probably cheap because of all the human-rights abuses that allow cheap labor.
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They Do, But...
Wal-Mart also sells many of the same items back to the Chinese. I was watching a television special on Wal-Mart awhile back, and I learned that Wal-Mart has opened up their first stores to the Chinese. They showed one of them---it was essentially the same as the average Wal-Mart, but with different foods and items items the Chinese might be interested in. The stores they have opened there are quite successful---perhaps more successful than the ones here in the United States. The store they showed was flooded down the aisles with Chinese people willing to purchase Wal-Mart products.
Posted by Michael G. (185 comments )
Link Flag
Doesn't the US Treasury sell a major portion of the US Government debt to the Chinese governement so they can pay for US Congressional spending and the salaries &#38; fringe benifits of Congress Critters?

Last time I checked, they were above the 600 billion mark.

I suppose they should pay off those bonds and refuse more investment before passing such laws. Somebody needs to pull Timothy Franz Geithner aside for a little chat.
Posted by koIam (176 comments )
Link Flag
The US of today
First, I want to ask what content was censored that has created such an uproar. The article doesn't specify.

So what if the big companies gave in? China is not a democracy. Democracy grants freedom of speech (though if you look at the US, you are left in doubt), but I don't China's government does. That still doesn't make censorship right, but why does the US even care? It seems that US is always interfering when foreign governments don't meet the American way of doing things. If you look at US history, you will see that this has happened many times, even in the recent Iraq war.

On the other hand, it's nice to see that politicians are noticing that the big companies care only about money. They will do anything for profit, no matter how inhuman it may be. Unfortunately, other than a few critical comments, politicians will not lift a hand to stop these companies from abusing their influence to extort more money from the average consumer. Now that they recognize that they no longer run this country, now all they have left to do is realize that they are powerless to stop it.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I suggest you read the Chinese Constitution with special attention to Article 35. (Yes, I'm strange, I actually read the entire thing.)

There were more than 40,000 public demonstrations in China last year, it seems they excercise their rights at least 100 times more than wingnut teabaggers shouting "Keep your ocialist hands off my Medicare".

Geesh.
Posted by koIam (176 comments )
Link Flag
The USA is in no position to criticize others
A country which spies on its own citizens, asks airlines to provide all reservations data includin your credit card information and now wants search engines to give it all sorts of data on usage is in no position to criticize any other country.

The call to force companies to locate their serverts outside of "bad" countries applies equally to the USA. As a canadian, I would much prefer to see Google move north to Canada where true data privacy act still exists and where our government doesn't have a "total information awareness" policy.
Posted by jfmezei (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
He he - He sounds like yoda.
"reverse yourselves - you can"
Posted by Neph (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
China censorship
As an American who has lived in China, I can assure folks that the restrictions on free expression in China are less harmful to the larger society than the restrictions to free expression in America.

Whereas China makes an effort to prevent the spread of information that would corrupt the morals of its' citizens, or forment conflict, the American media and government makes it difficult, if not impossible, for folks to openly state their opinions on certain issues, without fear of being personally attacked, by media, politicians, special interest groups, religions, etc.

China is working hard to provide freedom and opportunity for its' people, while at the same time, trying to prevent social unrest, violence, and corruption of its' government, customs, and basic good nature by self-serving religious, political, and commercial interests.

Government officials and business people who abuse the public trust in China receive long jail sentence or are executed, while in America criminals and manipulators interact with and influence the highest levels of government.

The basic difference is that in China, government officials make a diligent effort to make society better, whereas in America politicians put power and money above honesty and integrity.

Tom Potter
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://no-turtles.com" target="_newWindow">http://no-turtles.com</a>
Posted by tdp1001 (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Better---But at What Cost?
You've lived in China, so you should know what's going on there first-hand. But I have doubts when it comes to considering the Communist leaders in China being more benign to their people and making society better there, than in the United States.

Censorship, whether it's done for the reasons you state in the United States, or for the reasons that it is being done in China, is wrong. As far as China, I would say that censorship is much worse than anything encountered here in the United States. We may not like certain media, politicians, special interest and religious groups hounding our ways---but even at the worst, we have the FREEDOM to express ourselves without being jailed, imprisoned without trial, or executed. The Chinese that do so "to prevent social unrest, violence, and corruption of it's government, customs, and basic good-nature" are doing so at the expense of what makes the United States a great place to live---FREEDOM, whether we agree with certain groups or not.

I would much rather live in a world with a few special interest groups I don't agree with than to have them banned. I would much rather have a Jehovah Witness hand me a tract I'm not interested in, then to have all Jehovah's Witnesses censored and unable to practice their religion. I would rather disagree with a politician than never even hear him speak. I would rather pass a music CD by in a store with lyrics I disagree with, than to never have the freedom to listen to what I want to hear. I disagree with certain protesters on the war in Iraq, but I wouldn't want to see them jailed or prevented from speaking their view.

Is China truly doing a better job with its people, by employing these types of censorship on how to act, think and live? I don't think so. Are the Chinese really more "moral" than Americans, or are they acting more "moral" because they fear the government? Much of the corruption here in the United States by those in power could be dealt with in a better way. But there's a difference, and a price to pay, in China. "Government officials and business people who abuse the public trust in China, recieve long jail sentences, or are executed." But so are the ordinary people who are being led, and speak out against the Communist state. To give up one's personal freedoms for the principles of the State is against the principles Americans founded this country for...even with all of the "corruption". Is China "non corrupt" when it comes to making political decisions about who gets jailed or executed, and who doesn't? I doubt it.

To sum up, I believe that you may have listened to what the Communist leaders in China have said for too long.
Posted by Michael G. (185 comments )
Link Flag
Are you aware
that you can post such criticism on the web because you are in America?
I frequently hear Americans complaining about the lack of freedom of speech in America. Don't you know that's a contradiction? If you lived in a country without freedom of speech (as I did for several years) you would be prosecuted for your comments. And while in the US there have been some acts that can be considered limitations to freedom of speech, those are exceptions. In a totalitarian country that's the norm. No content against the official rules, no criticism is tolerated.
The American system is not perfect, and you should work hard to protect freedom of speech. But claiming that the chinese system (which restricts, for example, any page that contains the words freedom or liberty) is better than the American one is an insult to those that gave their lives fighting for the freedom you have.
Posted by Hernys (744 comments )
Link Flag
Note to Hernys ....

Do you spend much time Blogging on Chinese sites? I do and I don't see much difference between them expect that US sites generally have more rules and more moderation, where on Chinese sites, people pretty much say whatever they like, un-edited and un-sanitized by PC. Really, you have not lived until you get in a flame-war on a Chinese blog.

I think Americans make a lot of assumptions about China and Chinese with zero real information. The most popular blog in China is QQ.com which has something like 800 million registered accounts and 500 million regular users. If you are not chinese fluant, you can join QQ international (Goggle or Baidu it) and you can make friends with English fluant Chinese.
Posted by koIam (176 comments )
Link Flag
stupid hypocritical showboating congress
Well gee, I guess we better ask all those oil companies to get out of those repressive middle eastern countries as well.
Posted by stmon99 (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It would be fun
If it weren't a tragedy.
Politicians, who are supposedly in charge of handling foreign affairs, are now asking companies to do that for them. Why don't THEY push China to open their communications and to respect civil rights? No, they'd rather ask companies to break China's laws instead, so politicians don't get burned and can still blame someone else when the Chinese are oppressed.
Posted by Hernys (744 comments )
Link Flag
Not As Advanced As The Scientific Community
Unfortunately, the politicos are the ones that start the wars and turn our countries back.

Naturally when they find me and discover me..they call me disloyal and well, so much for free speech, and I'm an American.

On the other hand, if the politcos are American politicos..they need to realize that linkage with Google is what lets the Chinese help us with terrorism.

Their choice, help with terrorism for google co-operation or once again, the nation looks like an idiot as the world goes gaga over the US hypocricy.
Posted by popcornut (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
google loves commies
i guess sucking up to communists is not evil!
Posted by nser (18 comments )
Link Flag
Bill of Rights??
Although I agree with the principle of freedom of speech I think that it is no more than typical unilaterism on the part of the US to assume that all countries should conform to their ideals. China is a country of well over 1 billion people with the most complex cultural landscape anywhere in the world and to assume that it should adopt US ideals is arrogant. I also agree that corporations such as Google have a responsibility and therefore they should not give customer information such as in the yahoo case but it is the Chinese users who will also suffer if they do not have search facilities such as Google at their disposal. It is a valuable tool even if limited...
Posted by damien1972 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The solution is here avaliable in one click...
A small site <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.cosmopod.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.cosmopod.com</a> enables anyone to have an entire anonymous desktop outside of their country to browse and do what they like on. It's amazing that in this day and age that there are laws that prevent people from seeing information and even more so the worlds richest people actually agree with these laws when they have the full option to resist at a snap!!!
Posted by iqula (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oops...
..my company has blocked that site. looks like sensorship is alive and well in this country.
Posted by lewissalem (167 comments )
Link Flag
Some Hypocricy Here
While I'm glad to see that some American companies
are being called to task over business practices
in China I'm afraid that these Congressmen are
being hypocritical. What about all the blatant
Internet censorship that goes on in Europe? What
about the banning of speech, email, and web sites
in Eurpoe which espouse certain political or
social views? France ordered Google to not let
people sell certain types of historical items
because they may offend others. Where is the
outrage of these Congressman over these matters?

BTW, why aren't Motorola and IBM being called
before a committee. These companies are just
as guilty of proping up and aiding the Chinese
Government as Google, or Microsoft. In fact,
aren't all American companies doing business
in China guilty?
Posted by X99 (37 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey ..why isn't the US Treasury called before a Congressional committee for questioning about their financial dealings with the Chinese government?

I mean, like aren't Congressional salaries paid by the Treasury and ... um ... oh, never mind.

Sorry, sometimes I'm a little slow.
Posted by koIam (176 comments )
Link Flag
Correction
&gt; "Earl and Herby's attempt to belittle..."

My error, I meant to only type "Earl". Sorry Herby.
Posted by X99 (37 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I guess that if you think Tom makes sense...
... then, further comment is a waste of time. At least, of my time.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Fame
Everybody wants a piece of the pie on the world stage. China, Europe, Russia, the United States---it has been a power struggle, and will probably remnain so. There are a few "enlightened" amongst us that would like to believe otherwise, that the world will unite in a grand harmony. So be it. The conflicts between governments are as old as time. China is opening the doors to trade and relations, and there is nothing wrong with that, if it produces a world that is better for its citizens. If companies such as Wal-Mart, Microsoft, and Google are contributing to that cause---well and fine---so long as they are doing so with the correct intentions.
Posted by Michael G. (185 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your holy trinity weakened?
You guys are just in denial that United States was not as powerful as before. You've seen many of US companies bought by foreign companies and you just pissed off. Welcome to the business world, where buying and selling are the business here.

You are in disbelieve that your Mighty (Microsoft) God (Google) Yahweh (Yahoo) are "kow-tow"-ing and weakening to China. Don't take it personally, don't let inferiority and insecurity complex infected you just like it infected China. Take it easy on the censors, thats what we call it: "When in Rome, do whats Roman do." You've got to show some respect to other cultures.
Posted by wan_hart (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Be glad to....
... any suggestions for those deserving respect???
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Attacking Gates on Human Rights??
How can anyone seriously attack Bill Gates on human rights. I hate
microsoft, but Bill Gates has done more to help the rest of the
world than anyone else. He has given billions to fight disease
around the world. These members of congress are just trying to get
votes at the cost of the greatest humanitarian alive today. This is
ridiculous!
Posted by macnogeek (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
A humanitarian????
The way I see it, Melinda is the one to get most of the credit. Bill's
donation level before Melinda was just about zero. But, whoever is
responsible, Ol' Bill has given away lots and lots of cash. And that
cash can do a lot of good things. It also seems enough to get him
his own halo.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
 

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