Code of Conduct for Internet Censorship

January 15th, 2007 by Gabriel Bodard

Seen in last week’s New Scientist:

Internet companies are poised to launch a code of conduct governing their operations in China.

Web firms have faced sustained criticism for their activities in China, which include censoring websites. So Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have been working with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford and Harvard universities, alongside Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to develop an ethical code of conduct. A spokeswoman for Yahoo indicated that it will probably be launched in the next few months.

The code will include an undertaking not to censor a website or search term unless ordered to do so in writing. This is in response to criticism from Human Rights Watch and others that companies have been “more royal than the queen” in censoring words before being ordered to. The firms will also pledge to keep information on users for the shortest time possible, and to inform people …

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This is good news for those of us web geeks who were dismayed at Google and Yahoo’s behaviour in China last year. But it needs observing and enforcing–and not just in China but also in the West, of course.

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