A congressional hearing in Washington last week focused attention on the practices of four U.S. Internet companies doing business in China — Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems — amid mounting criticism that they are making money in the world’s second-largest market of Internet users at the expense of human rights.
Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the subcommittee that convened the hearing, has accused the companies of a “sickening collaboration” with the Chinese government’s efforts to police the Internet. He has also drafted a bill that would restrict their ability to cooperate with Chinese efforts to censor political content or apprehend online dissidents.
The companies have acknowledged making troubling compromises to do business here, but say that they must comply with Chinese law and that the Chinese people are better off with them in the country because their services have promoted greater freedoms. They have also said, though, they would welcome a more active U.S. government role in fighting the demands of China’s censors.