Members Praise Google Decision on China

Monday, January 18, 2010
U.S. Congressmen Chris Smith of New Jersey, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan and Bob Inglis of South Carolina, joined officials from Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, and former Chinese political prisoners Harry Wu and Wei Jingsheng at a press conference last week to praise Google for taking bold measures to end its dealings with the Chinese regime that had enabled it to spy on the Chinese people.

They also called on House leaders to finally vote on the Global Online Freedom Act ("GOFA"), a bipartisan bill that passed multiple House Committees in the previous Congress but was not brought up for a floor vote.

Google has now endorsed the GOFA bill, HR 2271.

"Google sent a thrill of encouragement through the hearts of millions of Chinese human rights activists and political and religious dissidents—including, no doubt, many sitting in jail right now for the 'crime' of peacefully expressing their religious beliefs or political opinions on the Internet," said Smith. "Google deserves to be praised for this decision. It is a blow against the cynical silence of so many, including the Obama administration, about the Chinese government's human rights abuses—a blast of honesty and courage from which we can all draw inspiration."

"Google has taken a principled stand, reminiscent of the companies that pulled out of apartheid South Africa and fascist Germany," Wolfe said. "The Chinese government now faces the prospect of either loosening their restrictions on the Internet or angering millions of their own people who use the Google search engine. This courageous step by one American company has far-reaching implications. They found that the Gmail accounts of literally dozens of brave human rights advocates seem to have been routinely accessed. This is unconscionable, but unsurprising given China's long history of cracking down on free speech, human rights and religious freedom. China is increasingly bold in their human rights abuses."

The provisions of the GOFA bill include:

• Prohibits US companies from disclosing to foreign officials of an “Internet Restricting Country” information that personally identifies a particular user except for “legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes;”

• Creates a private right of action for individuals aggrieved by the disclosure of such personal identification to file suit in any US district court;

• Prohibits US Internet service providers from blocking online content of US government or US-government financed sites;

• Establishes a new inter-agency office within the State Department charged with developing and implementing a global strategy to combat state-sponsored Internet jamming by repressive countries;

• Requires the new Office of Global Internet Freedom to monitor filtered terms; and to work with Internet companies and the non-profit sector to develop a voluntary code of minimum corporate standards related to Internet freedom;

• Requires Internet companies to disclose to the new Office of Global Internet Freedom the terms they filter and the parameters they must meet in order to do business in Internet Restricting Countries;

• Requires the President to submit to Congress an annual report designating as an “Internet Restricting Country” any nation that systematically and substantially restrict Internet freedom;

• Establishes civil penalties for businesses (up to $2 million) and individuals (up to $100,000) for violations of the new requirements;

• Mandates a government feasibility study to determine what type of restrictions and safeguards should be imposed on the export of computer equipment which could be used in an Internet Restricting Country to restrict Internet freedom.

It's time to pass the Global Online Freedom Act.