Amnesty International is concerned about the ways Microsoft may be aiding the repression of freedom to information and expression in China. According to recent reports, Microsoft's search engine blocks searches under key words such as "freedom", "democracy", "human rights", "Falun Gong", and "demonstration", among others. Users of Microsoft Spaces are also prohibited from using these and other words on the weblogs they create.
Send a message to Bill Gates that corporations must respect human rights wherever they operate!
- Chairman, Microsoft
William H. Gates
- CEO, Microsoft
I am alarmed that Microsoft continues to contribute to abuses of freedom of expression and information online – cooperating with Chinese authorities to shut down the blog of Zhao Jing, a Beijing-based researcher for the New York Times, filtering the results of searches for politically sensitive terms and restricting blog content and access to websites relating to human rights, including Amnesty International’s pages.
While I appreciate the time Microsoft has invested in the Global Network Initiative, the launch of the Initiative is just the beginning of a commitment to respect of human rights, and should not be used to defray concerns about lack of concrete progress on the ground.
Despite repeated calls by Amnesty International, Microsoft has made little effort to use legal recourse to fight censorship demands and continues to proactively restrict access to information. As Amnesty has previously expressed, compliance with locally-mandated restrictions is not a justification for neglecting international human rights responsibilities, whether a company acts alone or with local partners.
I am again urging your company to take a more pro-active response to any requests or demands to censor protected content. In fact, nothing in the Global Network Initiative prevents Microsoft or other companies from going beyond the Initiative’s mandate in addressing inadequate policies and practices regarding the protection of human rights, and I encourage you to be a leader against censorship, not just in China, but around the world, as Microsoft expands into other markets with equally complex human rights environments.
Therefore I urge Microsoft to:
• Ensure that it takes all possible legitimate action to avoid complying with, and to challenge, government requests that violate or may have a negative impact on human rights
• Be transparent about filtering processes used to limit or restrict search results, including informing users and disclosing which terms are being censored
• Provide access to independent monitoring and evaluation of its implementation of human rights principles.
• Support U.S. legislation, such as the Global Online Freedom Act, which would allow the US government to help companies stand up to repressive regimes in which they operate.
• Publicly call on the Chinese Government to release Yang Tongyan, Huang Jinqiu, Shi Tao and all others detained for their peaceful and legitimate use of the Internet.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing of any progress your company makes in fulfilling these requests.
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