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March 02, 2010

Legislators Pressure Internet Firms to Fight Censorship Overseas
By Marisa Torrieri
TMCnet Editor

Think there’s no “net neutrality” in the United States?
Consider what’s happening in countries like China and Iran, which have clamped down on free speech and started heavily censoring sites like Facebook (News - Alert). Still, the U.S. tech community is under pressure to uphold U.S. ideals when doing business in those places.

Legislators are apparently criticizing U.S. technology companies for being pushovers and “bowing to pressure” by foreign governments to censor or block Internet sites, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The discussion began earlier this week, as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), who chairs a Senate Judiciary Committee panel, said at a hearing he will introduce legislation “that would require Internet companies to take reasonable steps to protect human rights or face civil or criminal liability.”
But are the companies in business to make money at fault?
Many argue that the laws of the countries in which they operate sometimes require censorship or Web-site restrictions, said the WSJ. So the question then becomes, do you compromise U.S. values overseas to boost your business? Or do you stick to your guns, and risk getting on foreign governments’ bad lists?
The good news for legislators is that the biggest Internet giants – Google, Microsoft (News - Alert), and Yahoo! – teamed up as recently as 2008 to form an anti-censorship and privacy-rights initiative. The bad news is that the new kids on the block – Facebook and Twitter, namely – have not joined.
According to the Journal, Facebook said in a statement that it had limited international staffing with which to handle censorship laws in other countries: “When we come to evaluate doing business in any country, we do so thoughtfully and are mindful of the rules, regulations, and customs.”
Recently, TMCnet reported the high-profile Internet attacks on Google (News - Alert) and dozens of other American corporations in China were traced to a couple of high-profile schools.

Not naming sources, The New York Times reported that security investigators traced the computers involved in the hack to at Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School in China.
Sources told the Times that the attacks, “aimed at stealing trade secrets and computer codes and capturing e-mail of Chinese human rights activists, may have begun as early as April, months earlier than previously believed.”  

Marisa Torrieri is a TMCnet Web editor, covering IP hardware and mobility, including IP phones, smartphones, fixed-mobile convergence and satellite technology. She also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet's gadgets and satellite e-Newsletters. To read more of Marisa's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri


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