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Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo Urge Government Intervention Against Censorship

Stung by bad publicity over their respective efforts to do business in China, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo on Wednesday asked the government to take a stand against censorship.

In a statement prepared for a meeting held Wednesday by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel, asked the U.S to go to bat for American values overseas by extending the definition of free trade to include the free flow of information.

"[A]s a U.S.-based company that deals primarily in information, we have urged the United States government to treat censorship as a barrier to trade," he said. "There is an important role for the United States government to address, in the context of its bilateral government-to-government relationships, the larger issues of free expression and open communication."

As part of his statement, Google's McLaughlin detailed his company's plan to "balance [its] commitments to satisfy the interests of users, expand access to information, and respond to local conditions." In China, the local conditions consist of significant restrictions on information. Thus, Google's strategy for doing business there will achieve that balance through "improved disclosure, targeting of services, and local investment."

Microsoft and Yahoo also asked for government intervention in a joint statement prepared for the caucus. "While we believe that companies have a responsibility to identify appropriate practices in each market in which they do business, we think there is a vital role for government-to-government discussion of the larger issues involved," the two companies said. "We urge the United States government to take a leadership role in this regard and have initiated a dialogue with relevant U.S. officials to encourage such government-to-government engagement."

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