Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have breached the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by colluding with China to censor the Internet, Amnesty Interna-tional said yesterday.
The London-based human rights group appealed to the Internet companies to publicly oppose Chinese government requests that violate human rights standards and to lobby for the release of jailed cyber-dissidents.
The three publicly traded companies are ignoring their own stated commitments -- which in Google's case includes the corporate motto "Don't be evil" -- and are in denial over the human rights implications of their actions, the group said in a report.
"All three companies have, in one way or another, facilitated or concluded in the practice of censorship in China," the report said.
"All three companies have demonstrated a disregard for their own internally driven and proclaimed policies. They have made promises ... which they failed to uphold in the face of business opportunities and pressure from the Chinese government," Amnesty said.
"This raises doubts about which statements made by these organizations can be trusted and which ones are public relations gestures," it said.
"The Internet should promote free speech, not restrict it. We have to guard against the creation of two Internets -- one for expression and one for repression," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty's US branch, in a statement.
Google and the Chinese partner that runs Yahoo's China operation, Alibaba.com, defended their activities and said their presence benefits China's public.
Google said in a written statement that its search engine discloses when results have been removed "in response to local laws and regulations" and that the company avoids offering services where it can't guarantee users' privacy.
Alibaba.com didn't respond directly to Amnesty's criticism but said its focus is on Internet commerce, not news and information.
The Amnesty statement appealed to Internet companies to reveal details of their dealings with the Chinese authorities and to exhaust all judicial appeals before complying with government requests that might affect human rights, such as the release of e-mail account information.
A growing number of Chinese journalists and others have been jailed for posting politically oriented comments online and other Internet-related activities.
Yahoo was criticized after its China operation provided information on e-mail users that was used to send two dissidents to prison. Google has been criticized for censoring search results on its China site.
Microsoft has banned terms such as "human rights" from its Chinese Web log service.