New York Times: Enabling China

An editorial in the New York Times calls for legislation restricting the work of American technology companies in China:

After Yahoo handed over data five years ago about a Chinese journalist who was condemned to 10 years in jail, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google joined in the Global Network Initiative to set principles that include protecting “the freedom of expression rights of their users when confronted with government demands, laws and regulations to suppress freedom of expression.” Voluntary guidelines are insufficient. Just as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act establishes that companies cannot bribe foreign officials, legislation is needed in this area.

Internet companies should not keep user data inside countries where courts convict people for what they write, speak or think. They should warn users about their risks, and they should never censor content. American firms were barred from selling crime-control products to China after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. The list must be broadened and kept up to date. Firms could be barred from selling technology to eavesdrop on VoIP communications or powerful antispam systems that could be used to target political speech. Technology companies should be barred from tailoring goods to a repressive end.