Congressman Aims At Chinese Net Censorship

    January 12, 2006

Representative Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) takes aim at Internet companies doing business and China. He plans to hold hearings as chairman of the House Subcommittee on human rights next month based on reports U.S. Internet companies, including Yahoo and Microsoft, help China to suppress free speech.

One of the most controversial issues for Internet-based companies moving to do business in China has been the censorship problem. It’s simply part of the cost of doing business in China. Yahoo and Microsoft have been in the middle of the censorship issue since they started doing business in China. Even Google has had to compromise on this issue, although they’ve not drawn near the controversy the other two have. Many others have had to take similar stances.

Microsoft problems stem from shutting down a popular Chinese blog run from the Chinese bureau of the New York Times. This move raised a lot of ire from human rights groups like Reporters Without Borders.

Yahoo went a bit further by providing evidence in a trial that allowed the Chinese government to convict a journalist. Needless to say, this wasn’t smiled on either by many groups. Many have called for the U.S. government to do something about it.

To this end, Smith said he intends to conduct hearings on the matter. While Smith has made a career as a human rights advocate in congress, he may have his work cut out for him in a couple of ways.

First, if he stated these companies need to call China’s bluff. It’s doubtful China’s bluffing on this one. China would have no problems kicking out Microsoft, Yahoo or anyone else that didn’t follow their rules. In that respect, they’re not much different from the U.S.

The other thing is that tensions with China remain high. U.S. businesses have slowly gotten a foothold over there and many in the government don’t want to jeopardize this. Boisterous committee meetings complaining about China’s human rights violations wouldn’t necessarily be useful in developing those relationships.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.