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Google cops more flak over China

MS, Cisco and Yahoo! also under fire

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Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and Yahoo! were yesterday roundly condemned for "collaborating with China to censor the internet", Reuters reports. During a briefing by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, representative Tim Ryan said: "They should not let profits take precedence over traditional democratic values such as freedom of speech."

Google is accused of agreeing to Chinese censorship of search results in the Beijing-friendly version of its search engine. Microsoft has admitted similar acquiescence. Yahoo! was last year blasted for "allegedly providing online information to the government that allowed it to find and jail a Chinese journalist critical of the government". Cisco is also accused of "helping the government track cyber-dissidents".

Representative Tom Lantos added: "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."

None of the four companies attended the briefing, but Microsoft and Yahoo! issued a joint press statement which demanded US government intervention in the matter: "We urge the United States government to take a leadership role in this regard and have initiated a dialogue with relevant US officials to encourage such government-to-government engagement.

"We want to assure members of Congressional Human Rights Caucus and the public at large that we do not consider the internet situation in China to be one of 'business-as usual'."

Microsoft also announced yesterday that in future it will "only pull content from MSN when it receives official legal notice that content breaks local laws or MSN's terms and conditions".

The accused quartet has been "summoned" to a February 16 hearing of the House International Relations Subcommittee, by New Jersey Republican and subcommittee chairman Chris Smith. Smith recently said in statement that Google "would enable evil by cooperating with China's censorship policies just to make a buck". ®

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