Document - Google does not censor: take action to defend freedom of information
Web Action WA 12/06; AI Index
Google does not
censor: take action to defend
freedom of information
Google is aiding the
repression of freedom of information and expression in China. Under
threat is the right to freedom of information and the free flow of
ideas across borders, guaranteed by international human rights
Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and
others are aiding the repression of freedom of information and
expression in China. Under threat is the right to freedom of
information and the free flow of ideas across borders, guaranteed
by international human rights law.
Google is aiding the
repression of freedom of information and expression in
Early in 2006 Google launched
a self-censoring Chinese search engine, google.cn. As with
Microsoft and Yahoo, the Chinese version of Google (called "Gu Ge"
in Chinese) affects Chinese users by restricting search results for
topics such as "human rights", "political reform", "Tiananmen
Square" and "Falun Gong", among others.
Google’s chief executive has
defended Google's decision to cooperate with censors, claiming that
accepting China’s restrictions was unavoidable. Yet these forms of
censorship seem to contradict the very principles that Google was
founded upon, and its own unofficial motto of "Don’t be evil."
Until January 2006, Google’s Support Centre claimed that it "does
not censor results for any search term", but removed this claim
after reaching its deal with China.
These restrictions also go
against the constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which
guarantees freedom of expression. Furthermore, China has signed the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which
guarantees the right to freedom of information and the free flow of
ideas across borders.
Google’s inadequate policy
and practices regarding the protection of human rights in the
context of censorship is not just a concern in China, but around
the world, as Google expands into other markets with equally
complex human rights environments
Dear Mr. Schmidt:
I am alarmed that in the
pursuit of new and lucrative markets, your company is contributing
to abuses of freedom of expression and information. This issue is
especially evident in China, where Google has agreed to restrict
search results for topics including “human rights”, “political
reform”, “Tiananmen Square” and “Falun Gong”, thus denying users of
google.cn the ability to access the full range of information
available internationally on human rights topics.
Though I acknowledge the
policies recently adopted by Google purportedly to address some of
these issues, the company still restricts search results in its
local search engine and I remain deeply distressed by this evident
willingness to support censorship. The fact that the company acts
in compliance with restrictive domestic law does not exempt it from
its international human rights responsibilities if complying with
such request contributes to human rights violations.
Internet companies have an
invaluable role to play in the realization of freedom of expression
and information – it shocks me that Google would compromise this
goal in pursuit of profit. Therefore I urge Google to:
- Conduct its Internet
business in China, and everywhere it operates, in a manner that
respects human rights, abides by international human rights
standards and avoids complicity in human rights
- Revise its policy to ensure
the company does not unconditionally assist censorship of the
internet but, on the contrary, challenges requests that are a
violation of international human rights standards.
- Put pressure on the Chinese
1) Remove blockages on
websites that deal with democracy, human rights, freedom, or that
peacefully articulate opinions on religion or politics;
2) Stop the filtering of key
words on the Chinese internet, including words such as democracy,
human rights, freedom and Falun Gong;
3) Ensure the Chinese public
have uninhibited access to the full range of information available
on the web in line with international standards on freedom of
expression and freedom of information.
- Develop an explicit human
rights policy, ensuring that it complies with the UN Norms for
Thank you for your
consideration of these demands.
Eric Schmidt, Chairman and
Mountain View, CA
You can also contact the
Google Help Center with your complaint.
select "I have a general question about Google." In the next menu,
select "Reporting a
"Suggesting a new feature,"
or "Other." In your message express your concern about Google
aiding human rights abuses in China, and request that Google
'feature' respect for universal freedoms everywhere they