Business, Ideology and Freedom [9:35 am]
In an indication of growing tensions between human rights advocates and American Internet and technology companies doing business in countries with repressive regimes, a group of two dozen fund management firms and investment analysts issued a joint statement yesterday urging businesses to adopt policies addressing freedom of expression.
[...] Microsoft and Google have been criticized for filtering keywords like “human rights” and “democracy” from their search engine results in China. Cisco has been criticized because its router hardware and software form the backbone of China’s Internet, and the Chinese government has been able to use Cisco’s technology to filter Web traffic within the country and conduct surveillance of Internet users there.
“We sent letters, we tried to phone them,” said Julien Pain, the head of the Internet freedom desk at Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based press freedom group, referring to the organization’s attempts to discuss free-speech issues with various technology companies. “And none of them ever replied to us.”
The group, which organized and helped draft yesterday’s announcement, turned to “socially responsible” investment firms in an attempt to reach shareholders. [...]
[...] Mary Osako, a Yahoo spokeswoman, said yesterday that the company took these issues seriously. “We balance legal requirements,” she said, “against our strong belief that our long-term involvement in China contributes to the continued modernization of the country.” Even so, [Domini Social Investments' general counsel and director of shareholder advocacy Adam] Kanzer said, a trade-off is being made between “making money and a person going to prison for expressing their viewpoint.”