As expected, members of the bipartisan Congressional Human Rights Caucus teed off on Microsoft and other tech companies at today’s briefing on Human Rights and the Internet -The People’s Republic of China. Anne Broache at ZDNet:
Politicians on Wednesday attacked Google, Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Yahoo for declining to appear at a briefing about China’s Internet censorship and called for a new law to outlaw compliance with such requirements.
The four technology companies said earlier this week that they were not able to schedule an appearance with short notice but would testify at a similar House of Representatives hearing scheduled for Feb. 15.
“These massively successful high-tech companies, which couldn’t bring themselves to send their representatives to this meeting today, should be ashamed,” said Rep. Tom Lantos, the California Democrat who is co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which organized the briefing.
The absence of the tech companies left Wednesday’s briefing heavy on commentary from human rights activists and a representative from a U.S.-China governmental advisory panel.
Several of those representatives accused each of the firms of squelching cyberdissidents or caving into the Chinese government in some way.
More by following the link, but unlike the informal Human Rights Caucus, the hearings on the 15th have been called by the House of Representatives’ Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations subcommittee which has the power to compel attendance if required. As we have previously mentioned, the subcommittee is working on draft legislation which would mandate censorship resistance by Internet companies along the lines of a Reporters Without Borders report issued in January. I don’t expect it was a coincidence that Microsoft yesterday issued a new policy yesterday for its MSN Spaces weblog service and Bill Gates spoke out today against Web censorship