Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! are preparing to sign a global code of conduct that might shield them from criticism over issues such as freedom of speech in China.
The Global Network Initiative, which is said by the New York Times to be in the final draft, is a commitment by signing companies to “avoid or minimize the impact of government restrictions on freedom of expression.”
Google was criticized for cooperating with the Chinese government in censoring certain search terms when it launched a Chinese version of its site. The World Organization chastised Yahoo! for handing over personal information to the Chinese government. Ultimately, all three companies have come under severe criticism for seemingly putting profit ahead of principle.
The new code doesn’t really change how these companies do business in countries such as China where they are legally bound to the local laws. According to the Wall Street Journal, it also stops short of stipulating some specific behaviors to avoid ethically challenging situations, such as hosting servers in countries without restrictions. But by signing the code, the companies promise to resist government demands to the greatest extent possible and to carefully assess the human rights impact of their decisions.
Along with Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, Vodafone and France Telecom are also considering participation.
Filed Under: Industry regulations