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Google Board Votes Down Proposal Against Censorship

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Recently, a number of groups that own shares in Google put forth a shareholder proposal that would require Google to resist government censorship efforts, and to notify users when consorship had occured despite Google’s best efforts. Wenesday, Google’s board of directors issued a recommendation that the proposal be voted down, ensuring the proposal will never have a chance, since the big three of Page, Brin and Schmidt hold 66.2% of all voting power.

The Office of the Comptroller’s proposal argues that the freedom to access information on the Internet is guaranteed by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Technology companies in the United States such as Google, that operate in countries controlled by authoritarian governments have an obligation to comply with the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights,” the proposal said, naming Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam as countries where governments restrict access to Internet content.

The very arguement is preposterous. The United Nations issues a Declaration of Human Rights, then these countries go completely against it. Rather than asking the United Nations to enforce its declaration and improve human rights, as is its mission, they call on Google to break those countries’ laws in order to make a statement and lose money? Ridiculous.

What’s worse, the shareholders in question are New York City government agency pension funds (who have been beating this drum for over a year), misusing their perceived positions of importance in relation to government agencies in order to lend legitimacy to their attempts to persuade Google, even funneling the request through the office of the Comptroller.

This needs to stop. The job of ending human rights abuses falls with governments, not corporations, since corporations don’t have power over those countries (certainly not China!). By petitioning Google, in a way that is a waste of time and has no hope of succeeding, they draw attention away from government agencies and officials who actually could enact change, and are not doing so. They are only making things worse.

I don’t like Google censoring, and I’ve called them to task for it many times. I want them to choose not to censor, but it is their choice, it is a business and moral decision. To pose as representatives of government, to pretend your words carry authority, and to ask a company to lose money in the pursuit of zero public good, is absurd, and they should shut up, sit down, and think about doing something that really matters.

Otherwise, collect your pensions and leave people who are still in the workforce alone.

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