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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rep. Lantos Spanks Google

California's 12th District is fortunate have Tom Lantos represent them. He's a leader on human rights and has placed himself at the forefront of the Google censorship issue. Lantos has some choice words for Google (my emphasis added, his a$$-whooping in the original):

Companies that have blossomed in this country and make billions, a country that reveres freedom of speech, have chosen to ignore that core value in expanding their reach overseas and to erect a “Great Firewall” to suit Beijing’s purposes.

These massively successful high-tech companies which couldn’t bring themselves to send their representatives to our Human Rights Caucus briefing Wednesday on China and the Internet should be ashamed. With all their power and influence, wealth and high visibility, they neglected to commit to the kind of positive action that human rights activists in China take every day. They caved in to Beijing’s demands for the sake of profits, or whatever else they choose to call it.


It has also been argued Internet companies are entitled to apply the same rules of engagement in China that they apply elsewhere. In Germany, for example, where denying the Holocaust is against the law, access to Neo-Nazi Web pages is impossible via Google. The company notifies its users that not all Web pages may be available. And in its new China services, Google issues a similar warning.

But as the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, I cannot begin to describe how disgusted I am by this particular argument. Because, in essence, it equates the vile language and evil purposes of Neo-Nazi groups and hate speech with content provided by the human rights activists of Falun Gong, by journalists and by democracy activists in China. There simply is no comparison between efforts of the democratically-elected government of the Federal Republic of Germany to move against hate-mongerers, and the Chinese regime cracking down on religious freedom, human rights and democracy.

China’s appalling human rights record never was a secret. U.S. Internet companies simply cannot claim they had no idea of what doing business there could entail. The Internet has always been a vital tool for human rights and democracy advocates in China, and a vital link with the outside world of its oppressed people.

Our Internet companies should have known, because for years their most loyal customers in China have gone to extraordinary technical lengths to bypass government’s controls of the Internet.

If these companies had stood up to Beijing from the beginning, demanding that they retain physical control of their own servers by having them located outside of China, the picture would be very different today.

Bravo, Tom. It's shockingly rare to see a politician take the time to call a fox a fox. And that's what Lantos has done here. Forget the mealy-mouthed arguments by Google's shill Andrew McLaughlin, Lantos says, there's right and there's wrong. Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and Yahoo are wrong. Sure, Google has censored hate speech in Europe and the US (though I personally take issue with this, too), but that's entirely different than the censorship of democracy groups, independence movements, human rights organizations, and religious web sites. Google is supporting tyranny through their partnership with China.

Google's self-defenses are morally vacuous and intellectually lazy. Lantos sees through them, as does every single person who's committed to break up with Google on February 14th. Congress is holding hearings into the operations of Google and other American tech companies in China on February 13th.


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