Congress Sounds Off Against Search

MSN, Yahoo, Google, and networking company Cisco all sent staffers to be part of a House Subcommittee hearing on their business practices in China.

With election-year House members on one panel, and avowed critics of China’s human rights practices on another panel, the quartet of tech company representatives predictably received a verbal bludgeoning from the two panels. A House subcommittee hearing today hosted those technology company staffers.

The report delivered by the Mercury News contained a selection of quotes from Congressmen who were shocked, shocked, that there were people in the world who would exchange ethics for money from the Chinese market:

“Your abhorrent actions in China are a disgrace,” said Rep. Tom Lantos, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. “I simply don’t understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night.”

Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, said Google seemingly had acted “as a functionary of the Chinese government. … This is astonishing.”

The Merc’s excellent blog, Good Morning Silicon Valley, provided this passage along with a quote from the House Subcommittee chairman Chris Smith, R-NJ:

Republican Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee on global human rights, produced a quote that should be engraved on the entrance of every stock exchange: “Cooperation with tyranny should not be embraced for the sake of profits.”

Smith proceeded to excoriate the tech companies even further, accusing them of being complicit in torture:

It’s an active partnership with both the disinformation campaign and the secret police, and the secret police in China are among the most brutal on the planet,” he said. “I don’t know if these companies understand that or they’re naive about it, whether they’re witting or unwitting. But it’s been a tragic collaboration. There are people in China being tortured courtesy of these corporations.”

The tech companies have maintained a unified theme in addressing these complaints: we can do more for human rights by having a presence in China than by not being there. Also, the companies have tried to turn the issue back to the federal government, claiming they need its help to effectively serve Chinese Internet users.

Endnote – Google provided a copy of its representative’s testimony online after the hearing.

David Utter
Staff Writer –

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