In previous posts I have been quite vocal about censorship and the appeasement of the search engines in response to governmental requests for limiting access and information. Now the Congress is contemplating fining companies if they cooperate with the technological surveillance of political dissidents or share technology and information used for “Internet-restricting” purposes.
From Forbes, “Companies under the congressional microscope included Cisco (nasdaq: CSCO – news – people ), which Smith accused of helping China create a “police net” database used to track and imprison political dissidents around the country. He alluded to Yahoo!‘s (nasdaq: YHOO – news – people ) cooperation with Chinese police, offering up email information that led to journalist Shi Tao receiving a 10-year prison term in 2005 for “revealing state secrets.” Smith also criticized Google (nasdaq: GOOG – news – people ) for its decision to appease China by blocking politically controversial search results on its Mandarin site.”Google has joined hook, line and sinker with the propaganda regime of Beijing,” Smith said.
While I applaud Congress for trying to stay in front of this issue, it sends a dangerous message to companies doing business overseas that if you try and comply with the legal requirements of the jurisdiction you are in, then the US government will fine you if it disagrees with that foreign government’s policies. Countries like China, Burma, Belarus, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Tunisia have very repressive policies and of course these policies should be repealed. Fining companies who, by their very nature will encourage greater openness, do business in these countries is sending the wrong message. And in this case, the wrong message is worse than no message at all.