Reporters Without Borders, a group advocating press freedom, recommends that Internet companies also adopt a good conduct code, pledging not to filter out words like “democracy” and “human rights” from search engines and maintaining their e-mail and Internet servers outside China.
Western businesses have always overestimated the price of defending human rights in China. Some have done it effectively – privately and respectfully – and paid no cost. But the beauty of such an industrywide code of conduct for Internet companies is that it would put no company at a disadvantage.
Western technology companies could have a powerful case if they acted as a group in telling China that they are under tremendous consumer and political pressure to stick up for free expression.