Google's submission to Congressional Human Rights Caucus

I missed it earlier in the day (and didn’t see it in the hearing room),
but Andrew McLaughlin (disclosure: long-time Berkman fellow and friend) has posted to the Google blog a statement about their offering in China.  The news in the statement, to me, is their recommended next steps, with which I broadly agree:

“1. Expanded Dialogue and Outreach. For more than a year, Google has
been actively engaged in discussion and debate about China with a wide
range of individuals and organizations both inside and outside of
China, including technologists, businesspeople, government officials,
academic experts, writers, analysts, journalists, activists, and
bloggers. We aim to expand these dialogues as our activities in China
evolve, in order to improve our understanding, refine our approach, and
operate with openness.

2. Voluntary Industry Action. Google supports the idea of Internet
industry action to define common principles to guide technology firms’
practices in countries that restrict access to information. Together
with colleagues at other leading Internet companies, we are actively
exploring the potential for Internet industry guidelines, not only for
China but for all countries in which Internet content is subjected to
governmental restrictions. Such guidelines might encompass, for
example, disclosure to users, and reporting about governmental
restrictions and the measures taken in response to them.

3. Government-to-Government Dialogue. In addition to common action by
Internet companies, 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. For example, as 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.”

The first strikes me as mostly fluff, though certainly right, so far as
it goes.  The second and third both seem to be sound, and
potentially meaningful, next steps.  On the third one, I think the
US should stop worrying about ICANN as an international Internet
governance issue and start treating censorship and surveillance as the
key international issue in our field.

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