Google Stockholders Propose Anti-Censorship Policy, Board Demurs
A group of Google stockholders has proposed that Google adopt an anti-censorship policy but Google's board is against the idea, according to a statement filed with the SEC.
The Office of the Comptroller of New York City, custodian for several city pensions, including police, firefighter and teacher funds, will ask Google's board to consider the proposal at Google's annual shareholder meeting on May 10.
The request asks that Google adopt a policy in which:
Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet-restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
Users should be informed about the company’s data retention practices and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
The company will document all cases where legally binding censorship requests have been complied with and that information will be publicly available.
The proposal is listed in Google's Notice of Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement filed with the SEC.
The shareholders collectively own 486,617 shares of class A common stock. As of February 2007, there were 230,097,376 shares of class A stock outstanding.
Google, of course, has repeatedly been in the news regarding how it handles customer data and censors information, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Most recently, Google was chided for manipulating satellite images of coastal damage in Louisiana. Google, along with Microsoft and Yahoo, was also recently accused by Amnesty International of collaborating with Chinese authorities to curtail freedom of expression in China. But Google also recently declined to censor a clip on YouTube, leading Thailand to block YouTube this week.
Last year, Google agreed to purge its results in China of any sites the Chinese government disapproved. CEO Eric Schmidt said the move was "absolutely" the right thing to do.
Google was called into Congressional hearings in 2006 concerning its censorship policies, and has hired a lobbying firm to help promote its position on the issue.