Tech Companies May Face Penalties for Failing to Protect Human Rights

Lora Bentley

Google representatives have been vocal about the company's decision to stop censoring its Chinese servers for awhile now, but members of Congress want other U.S. Internet companies to follow suit -- in China and anywhere else in the world where human rights are not upheld.


In a hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., accused many of the country's large Internet companies of "being unwilling to engage with Congress in a dialogue on human rights challenges," according to Durbin noted that Facebook, Twitter, McAfee and 26 other companies tech-sector companies invited to participate did not respond.


Google did participate. VP Nicole Wong testified before the subcommittee. Among other things, Wong told lawmakers that the number of countries using the Internet to repress human rights has increased substantially - "from a handful in 2002 to more than 40 today." Since a lot of that repression is done via U.S. companies, says Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., U.S. companies should take a stand against the censors.


Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have formed an Anti-Censorship Coalition, ZDNet reports, but until the others step up to the plate, Durbin says he is prepared to impose criminal fines on U.S. companies that fail to uphold human rights abroad. He says:

I will introduce legislation that will require Internet companies to take reasonable steps to protect human rights, or face civil and criminal liability.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 3, 2010 6:58 AM Steven Duque Steven Duque  says:

A recent Harvard grad's thoughts on the recent Google-Italy debacle and its illustration of the ideological dichotomy of liberty and privacy between the US and EU:

Mar 3, 2010 11:21 AM Down Under Down Under  says:

I hope the "anywhere else in the world" includes Australia which wants a mandatory ISP filter to censor "inappropriate" material. Note that this does not mean "illegal" material and "inappropriate" means whatever a group of faceless bureaucrats deem to be so. The blacklist leaked last year included legal but politically sensitive subjects and some YouTube and Wikipedia content.

Any American company that provides technology the Australian government for its "clean feed" should face civil or criminal prosecution.


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