Google Calls For Removal of Web Restrictions
A top Google executive on Wednesday called for new rules to crack down on governments that filter the Internet, saying the practice was hindering international trade.
Alan Davidson, director of United States public policy for Google, told a joint Congressional panel that the United States and other democracies should draft trade agreements that incorporate pledges to keep Web sites uncensored. He said censorship had become more than a human rights issue and was hurting profit for foreign companies.
“The growing problem for Internet censorship is not isolated to one country or one region,” Mr. Davidson told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “No single company and no single industry can tackle Internet censorship on its own.”
The fallout from China’s restrictive Internet policies widened on Wednesday when a Internet services company, the Go Daddy Group, said it would halt registration of Chinese domain names.
Christine Jones, executive vice president of Go Daddy, told the commission that the company was concerned about the privacy of its customers after Chinese officials requested copies of photo identification and signatures for each customer. For the first time, she said, Go Daddy had been asked to retroactively obtain documentation for individuals who had registered a domain name.
“We’re concerned about the chilling effect,” Ms. Jones said. She said a central obstacle in China was rampant hacker attacks that local authorities failed to combat.
“Countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks or other types of Internet crimes should face serious consequences and international condemnation,” Ms. Jones said in a statement.
Representative David Wu, Democrat of Oregon, said he thought Go Daddy’s decision to stop registering names was only the beginning of a stream of American companies curbing business in China.
“Pretty soon you have a cascade going,” Mr. Wu said. “There is a difference between compliance and complicity.”
More than 40 countries actively censor the Internet currently, Mr. Davidson said, and 25 governments block Google.
On Monday, Google closed its Internet search service in China and began directing users in that country to its uncensored search engine in Hong Kong. So far, Mr. Davidson said, the company had noticed “intermittent” censorship of the Hong Kong site. Despite the restrictions, the company plans to maintain a sales team in mainland China, he said.
Google’s decision to leave China was prompted in part by a series of attacks by hackers last year, which raised broader concerns about the flow of information in the country. The Chinese government has disputed that it was the source of the attacks, which focused on e-mail accounts of human rights advocates.
Chinese officials provided a statement to the commission, saying “foreign companies need to abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they operate in China.”
“The Chinese government encourages the development and popularization of the Internet and is committed to the opening up of the Internet,” the statement said.
The panel included members of the Senate, House and Obama administration officials. It was chaired by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, and Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan.
“Information is not to be feared, and ideas are not enemies to be crushed,” Mr. Dorgan said in opening remarks. “The truth is China too often wants a one-way relationship with the world.”