The U.S. State Department on Tuesday established a task force to investigate the problems posed to the Internet by repressive regimes, a move that followed a call for help by Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., which have been criticized for censoring information in China.
The task force would consider how the use of technology to restrict access to political content has impacted U.S. companies. The panel would also investigate the use of technology to track and repress dissidents and efforts to modify Internet governance structures in order to restrict the free flow of information.
"It's a top priority for the State Department and the U.S. government to do all we can to ensure maximum access to information over the Internet and to ensure minimum success by censors," Josette Shiner, undersecretary for economic, business, and agricultural affairs, said in a statement delivered to a news conference in Washington, D.C.
The task force is expected to draw upon the department's expertise in international communications policy, human rights, democracy, business advocacy, corporate responsibility and relevant countries and regions, Shiner said.
Besides working with U.S. companies and non-governmental agencies, such as human rights groups, the task force will seek help from the European Union and other governments facing similar problems with Internet censorship. Indeed, the EU Minister of Information has raised concerns over China's Internet restrictions, Shiner said.