Congress Mulls Fines For Cooperation With China

    October 24, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Have a seat; your hypocrisy detectors are about to blow. First the good news: The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the Global Online Freedom Act, which would penalize companies like Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco for aiding countries like China spy on political dissidents.

Introduced by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) back in January, the legislation would fine companies up to $2 million for participating the way Yahoo did in the jailing of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist.

"[T]wo of the most essential pillars that prop up totalitarian regimes are the secret police and propaganda," Smith said. "Yet for the sake of market share and profits, leading U.S. companies like Google, Yahoo, Cisco and Microsoft have compromised both the integrity of their product and their duties as responsible corporate citizens.

"They have aided and abetted the Chinese regime to prop up both of these pillars, propagating the message of the dictatorship unabated and supporting the secret police in a myriad of ways, including surveillance and invasion of privacy, in order to effectuate the massive crackdown on its citizens."

According to the Congressman, China has jailed 49 cyberdissidents and 32 journalists for posting criticisms of the government online. Smith also wags his finger at Cisco for providing the technology to create China’s Great Firewall.

Recently, eBay-owned Skype was accused of rerouting dissidents from its US-based site to a hosted site where conversations could be monitored.

The bill’s passing from committee comes just days after the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a measure to immunize telecommunications companies against lawsuits for helping the US government spy on their customers.

Will the Global Online Freedom Act apply to companies cooperating with the US government, then? Or will telecoms continue to enjoy a special place in the pockets hearts of Congressional leaders?