Different Paths

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2006-02-15 Print this article Print

Googles involvement in restricting search engine results for users in China was based on the idea that it can be of more value to the Chinese people by continuing to provide a service curtailed by the governments policies than providing no service at all, according to Elliot Schrage, vice president for corporate communications and public affairs at Google. "We decided to try a different path, a path rooted in the very pragmatic calculation that we could provide more access to more information to more Chinese citizens more reliably by offering a new service—Google.cn—that, though subject to Chinese self-censorship requirements, would have some significant advantages," Schrage said.
"Our hope is that our mix of measures, though far from our ideal, would accomplish more for Chinese citizens access to information than the alternative."
The companies efforts to defend their actions did not appease many committee members. Smith likened industry compliance with Chinese censorship efforts to IBMs cooperation with Nazi Germany in World War II. "Yahoo said that it must adhere to local laws in all countries where it operates," Smith said. "But my response to that is: if the secret police a half century ago asked where Anne Frank was hiding, would the correct answer be to hand over the information in order to comply with local laws?" Cisco Systems has also come under fire for enabling repressive measures in China, but the companys vice president and general counsel, Mark Chandler, said that it does not design products to accommodate political censorship. "The tools built into our products that enable site filtering are the same the world over, whether sold to governments, companies or network operators," Chandler said. "The features in our equipment are off-the-shelf and not altered in any way for any market or region. Similar technology is available from at least a dozen other U.S., Canadian, European and Chinese companies." Smith said that he plans to introduce legislation formalizing an initiative launched Feb. 14 by the Department of State, creating a task force to help U.S. companies protect freedom of speech abroad. It would include controls on the export of some hardware and software, and it would ban locating e-mail servers in countries without due process laws. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.


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