The Beijing Games give human rights groups a new platform for targeting Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other IT companies that do business with China. Amnesty International launches a social media campaign defending human rights in the run up to the China Olympics.
Despite a lukewarm response in Congress to his legislation aimed at banning
Internet companies from cooperating with repressive governments, Rep. Chris
Smith, R-N.J., found a new supporter July 16: Jules Maaten, a Dutch member of
the European Parliament.
In a Capitol Hill conference with Smith, Maaten said he plans to introduce a
bill in the European Parliament modeled after Smith's legislation, the Global Online
Freedom Act (PDF),
which would make it a crime for companies like Google and
Yahoo to disclose personally identifiable information to Internet-restricting
"Europe should promote freedom of speech as the
basis of the Internet, especially now that the Olympic Games are
approaching," Maaten said. "We need to create more transparency
surrounding the involvement of European Internet companies in online censorship.
Human rights also need to be protected online through legislation that contains
Smith has also used the Beijing Olympics as platform to promote his
legislation. In a late April joint press conference with Reporters Without
Borders, Smith said, "We ... need to take action to protect journalists and
pro-democracy activists who may otherwise become the next victims after the
spotlight provided by the Olympics is gone from the world's center stage."
At his July 16 press conference, Smith urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to
schedule a vote on his bill before the Olympics begin July 31.
"Unfortunately, these corporate giants are partnering and are very
complicit with one of the worst dictatorships in the world," Smith said.
"We don't have a lot of time. It takes one thing: Speaker Pelosi to post
the bill. And I think we'll win."
Smith's bill passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in October, but
the legislation has subsequently languished. A spokesperson for Pelosi's office
said the bill still needs work. There is no companion bill in the Senate and
the legislation does not have the support of the Bush administration.
"I assume absolute good will," Smith said of his dealings with
Pelosi. "But I also know that the clock is running out. For the next
political prisoner who gets incarcerated, tortured and maybe killed, time is
not on their side."
introduced his legislation in Europe
and Smith sparred with Pelosi, Amnesty
International Australia also used the Olympics to promote a social media
campaign defending human rights in China.
In the run up to the Beijing
games, Amnesty International will use a series of content pieces for the
Australian blog community and social media groups to take up, use and pass on
to their friends as a sign of support for freedom of speech.
"The Social Media campaign will be used to confront Google, Yahoo and
Microsoft for agreeing to Chinese censorship laws that block the freedom of
reporting and expression over the Internet," the group stated in a news
Yahoo has been under fire for almost two years for providing the Chinese
government with information that sent journalist Shi Tao to jail for a decade.
A reporter and editor for a Chinese newspaper, Shi was arrested in his home
after posting material under a pseudonym about a government crackdown on media
and democracy activists on an overseas Web site, Democracy Forum. The Chinese
government found Shi in Beijing
after Yahoo provided information about his e-mail account, including his IP
address, log-on history and the contents of his e-mail.
later settled a civil lawsuit
with Shi's family and publicly apologized to
Shi's mother during a congressional hearing.