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Google Says West Should Press China On Censorship

June 14, 2010

by NPR Staff and Wires

June 9, 2010

The world's largest search engine is asking U.S. and European governments to put more pressure on China to stop censoring the Internet.

Google's top attorney, David Drummond, described the practice as an unfair barrier to free trade and said Western governments should defend the flow of information the same way they do products. The West has complained to the World Trade Organization that China sells its goods below cost and undermines competitors.

He said government talks are "the only way that it's going to change, that this tide of censorship or this rising censorship is going to be arrested."

Google withdrew from mainland China and stopped self-censoring searches in late March after a cyberattack compromised Google security. Google searches from China now go through Hong Kong.

"Censorship, in addition to being a human-rights problem, is a trade barrier," Drummond said. "If you look at what China does — the censorship, of course, is for political purposes, but it is also used as a way of keeping multinational companies disadvantaged in the market."

"It should be obvious that the Internet sector is very important to the West and so we should be working on seeing that that kind of trade is protected," he said.

Drummond did not say if he wanted the U.S. to make a case with the WTO, which could give the U.S. trading rights to compensate for harm to American companies.

Instead, he said new trade rules may be needed to cover the Internet.

"Under a lot of trade rules, there's still this notion that domestic media markets should be off-limits to trade and that's got to change," he said.

He said he'd had some support in discussions with the U.S., French and German governments and with the European Union executive for pressing Google's case and Chinese restrictions on the Internet in bilateral and multilateral talks.

The European Union persistently raises human-rights issues with China, usually without much success. Indeed, a Chinese state multibillion-dollar buying spree in Europe last year pointedly shunned France after President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to boycott the opening of the Beijing Olympics over unrest in Tibet. China refuses to hold talks with the Tibetan government in exile.

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