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Thursday, February 02, 2006
Internet Giants Fighting Over the "Great Firewall" of China

Internet giants, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems were accused of complying to China's censorship demands for the sake of profits by the Us Human Rights caucus.

Yahoo and Microsoft were both asked to appear at a hearing in Washington on Wednesday, but failed to show up, as did representatives from Cisco and Google.

Their decision sparked criticism from Congressman Tom Lantos who declared: " that even companies that make strong and impressive corporate claims, such as Google?s motto, "Don?t Be Evil," cannot or do not want to respect human rights when business interests are at stake. Companies that have blossomed in this country and make billions, a country that reveres freedom of speech, have chosen to ignore that core value in expanding their reach overseas, and to erect a "Great Firewall" to suit Beijing?s purposes."

Now that they are facing criticism, all four companies showed their concern for the issue in a written statement they sent to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Yahoo and Microsoft sent a joint statement in which they urge the US government to act at an international level to stop foreign governments from censoring the online content that their citizens can access. Both companies claim that they lack the power to address the issue of online censoring.

Microsoft and Yahoo's move will help improve their public image considerably, since Google is currently pursuing policies of voluntary censorship with its decision to block politically sensitive terms on its new Chinese search web site launched last month.

But Microsoft has already shut down a Chinese journalist's blog that discussed "politically sensitive" issues.The software maker also unveiled on January 31st, its new policy for accessing content on its blogging service MSN Spaces dealing with government restrictions even though. On the other hand, it called for a broad international dialogue to establish a set of principles for Internet companies with blogging services in various regions of the world.

As for Yahoo, in September, search giant provided Beijing with e-mail account information that led authorities to arrest a Chinese journalist and sentence him to 10 years in prison.

Google justifies its recent decision by saying it is attempting to balance local conditions, with interests of the users and efforts to expand access to information. The company maintains that is why it is disclosing to its Chinese users what information has been blocked.

Finally, accused of providing China with computer filtering hardware, Cisco's response is that its routers sold in China have the same features that are currently used by libraries and schools to block content authorities judge improper, and have not been altered for the Chinese market.

China is the second internet market after the Us and is growing rapidly market with more than 110 million Internet users.

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