Congress May Penalize Tech Companies That Cooperate With ‘Internet Restricting’ Governments

Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are all doing business in China. There’s been bad PR and even congressional hearings for Yahoo about its cooperation with the Chinese government in the country’s effort to censor the Internet and crack down on dissent. Turkey and Thailand have blocked YouTube, and so on.

Now this article from Forbes describes US Congressional efforts “to penalize U.S. companies up to $2 million if they cooperate with the technological surveillance of political dissidents or share technology and information used for ‘Internet-restricting’ purposes.”

The search engines will no doubt be lobbying against the bill, using the argument, as Google has, that its presence in China will help open and change the culture of the country. That’s partly valid and partly rationalization, in an effort to not lose out on what will ultimately be the biggest single Internet market on the planet.

The irony here is that the U.S. government has tried to elicit (or compel) the help of search engines, tech companies, and telcos in its effort to conduct surveillance of perceived political dissidents in this country, in direct contravention of the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, privacy laws, and other legal rules. Will there be similar penalties for search engines, telcos, and tech companies that have cooperated with illegal U.S. government surveillance of U.S. citizens in the past or in the future?

Probably not. The U.S. Senate recently approved changes to the law that will provide immunity to telcos (and likely others) that cooperate in what would otherwise be illegal domestic wiretapping and surveillance.

Seems like a strange double-standard, doesn’t it?

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Google: Outside US | Yahoo: Outside US

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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