Tarnished Tech Firms To Adopt Code Of Conduct

From San Francisco Chronicle:

Criticized for their human rights records, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft plan to adopt voluntary guidelines that will govern their business practices in nations like China that restrict free speech, according to people who participated in drafting the rules.

The code of conduct, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle before its scheduled release next week, spells out that the technology titans should, for instance, carefully scrutinize demands by authorities for information about users and requests that online material be censored.

By agreeing to the rules, the companies hope to counter unflattering publicity in recent years over their cooperation with China’s efforts to crack down on dissidents and block Web sites considered to be subversive. It also might be a way to fend off U.S. legislation that could hamstring their business in some potentially profitable markets.

But critics complained that some of the rules fail to go far enough. Loopholes make it possible for companies to continue some of their most egregious behavior, they said.

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