In a congressional statement on Wednesday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) praised the internet company Google for its decision to stop censoring search results for requests from China. The Congressman described the decision as "an important boost of encouragement for millions of Chinese human rights activists and political and religious dissidents.”
After urging Google in Jan. to sever its provisions to Chinese government, Rep. Smith said that on March 22, “Google fulfilled its January commitment to stop censoring results on its Chinese search engine. This is a remarkable, and welcomed action, and an important boost of encouragement for millions of Chinese human rights activists and political and religious dissidents.”
“Google’s recent actions are a blow against the cynical silence of so many when it comes to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses – a blast of honesty and courage and a good example of responsible and principled corporate policy,” he added.
Rep. Smith also stated at Wednesday's Congressional-Executive Commission on China that “Reporters Without Borders documents that in China alone, at least 72 people are known to be imprisoned for Internet postings. But the victims of the Chinese government’s assault on Internet freedom include the entire Chinese people, denied their right to free expression, denied access to information, and often self-censoring out of fear.”
“Even beyond this,” the Congressman noted, “the Chinese government’s victims include other peoples, tyrannized by governments with which the Chinese government sells or gives its advice on technologies and techniques of Internet repression – reportedly these include Cuba, Vietnam, Burma, Belarus, and Sri Lanka.”
Rep. Smith's legislation is called the Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA), and though it was approved in 2008 by multiple House committees, it was never brought to the House floor. The New Jersey Representative reintroduced the bill in 2009 and has urged fellow representatives to finally vote on it.
“We need to work to protect advocates of human rights and democracy who face real threats from their governments,” Rep. Smith asserted in a Jan 13 statement to Congress. “U.S. companies should have no role in political censorship.”
Some of the provisions in GOFA include protections for personal identifying information such as email accounts, prevention of U.S. IT companies blocking U.S. government websites, record keeping by U.S. IT companies on demands from the government for information on internet users and notification of the same to the Attorney General, as well as the establishment of an Office of Global Internet Freedom within the State Department.
In addition to Google supporting the legislation, GOFA has also received the endorsement of organizations which include Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Wei Jingsheng Foundation, China Information Center, Laogai Research Foundation, International Campaign for Tibet, Uyghur-American Association, China Aid Association, PEN American Center as well as the World Press Freedom Committee.