Kudos to Congressmember Christopher Smith for chairing today’s hearing at which he summoned Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco to answer for their collusion with Chinese authorities in censoring their offerings. In the case of Yahoo, the company even provided crucial information leading to the arrest and imprisonment of two online dissidents.
In the NY Times‘ coverage, I was struck by this breathtakingly and transparently hypocritical statement from Google’s representative:
“Many, if not most, of you here know that one of Google’s corporate mantras is ‘Don’t be evil.’ ” Mr. Schrage of Google said in his statement. “Some of our critics — and even a few of our friends — think that phrase arrogant, or naive or both. It’s not. It’s an admonition that reminds us to consider the moral and ethical implications of every single business decision we make,” the statement continued. “We believe that our current approach to China is consistent with this mantra.”
So you believe that censoring any search terms that might remotely offend China’s government snoops is consistent with a “moral and ethical” business philosophy? You believe that by shutting down offending Chinese blogs which say things inconvenient to the authorities you’re doing the right thing? C’mon–what’re ya smokin’??
And a big raspberry to one of our local Congressmembers, Adam Smith, the Representative from Microsoft (Henry Jackson used to be called the Senator from Boeing) for serving as a dutiful corporate lackey (and I say this liking his liberal Democratic philosophy):
“Let’s assume for a moment that no U.S. tech company does business in China. Does it get better? Is it less repressive? Does China move forward? I don’t think so,” said Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington State.
I call this position “collusionist” because it throws up a smokescreen which allows Smith’s corporate “clients” to do business as usual with no restraints on their behavior vis a vis the Chinese government. That’s not what we need. We need companies that will be accountable to the American public and its representatives for their overseas behavior when it misses the standard they adhere to in their domestic markets.
Smith plans to introduce legislation to that effect this week:
The subcommittee’s chairman, Representative Christopher H. Smith, plans to introduce legislation by week’s end that would restrict an Internet company’s ability to censor or filter basic political or religious terms — even if that puts the company at odds with local laws in the countries where it now operates…
Mr. Smith’s legislation, called the Global On line Freedom Act, would render much of what the Internet companies are currently doing in China illegal.
It deserves our support. But you can be damn sure that these companies’ infernal lobbyists will be working furiously to derail these efforts. Let’s not let ’em get away with it. Call or write Christopher Smith to encourage him in his efforts. Call Adam Smith to tell him he’s off the reservation when it comes to upholding basic human and American rights of freedom of speech. YOu can reach both by calling (202) 224-3121 and asking for their offices. Let’s not let Microsoft diminish our sacred rights. Don’t the Chinese people deserve similar consideration to what Microsoft would accord us?
I find it pretty humorous that the snitches at Yahoo who sent two freedom-loving Chinese internet users to prison had this to say:
“We always reserve the right to get better,” Mr. Callahan, Yahoo’s general counsel, said in a phone call last weekend.
To quote another company’s marketing slogan: “Just do it!” Stop talking and get going. Get better NOW. Stop colluding with China. Start honoring principles that most Americans want you to uphold here at home and abroad.
Let’s let Smith have the last word:
Mr. Smith, the subcommittee chairman, says he thinks more than engagement is necessary. “The bottom line is no one is being compelled to sell to China,” Mr. Smith said.