Appendix XI: Letter from Human Rights Watch to Skype and Skypes response
From Human Rights Watch to Skype
July 5, 2006
Niklas Zennström, CEO and Co-Founder
Dear Mr. Zennström,
I am writing to request your help with research that Human Rights Watch is conducting on the role of international companies in the Internet in China. This report will include a discussion of the role of Skype and TOM Online in China. It is our goal to present a thorough and objective report. To that end, we are soliciting information and views from your company.
We would appreciate any comments you may have about Skypes role in China. Specifically, we would appreciate responses to the following questions. This will greatly assist our understanding of Skype and the environment in which it works.
1. Can you describe any human rights policies and procedures that the company has that would apply to censorship/filtering and protecting user privacy?
2. Does Skypes China-specific TOM-Skype client block words in text chats? Can you please provide a list of words that are being blocked under the Skype brand name in China?
3. Has Skype been pressured to block content by the Chinese government, or did Skype, or its local partner TOM Online, take the initiative itself?
4. It is our understanding that the TOM-Skype client has been found to automatically install a program, ContentFilter.exe, onto the users computer, without informing the user of its existence. The program in turn downloads a keyword file onto the users computer which remains on the computer after the client is uninstalled. Can you confirm this and tell us whether this is a feature that Skype headquarters has approved?
5. Do you have any plans to instruct TOM Online, which distributes TOM-Skype to Chinese users, to inform users that censorship of their conversations is taking place?
6. Do you believe it is ethically acceptable to censor users conversations without informing them that censorship is taking place?
7. Does Skype support an industry code of conduct, and if so, can you elaborate on what principles you think it should contain?
8. What is the companys position on U.S. or other government anti-censorship regulation generally, and the Global Online Freedom Act in particular?
Because we are under deadline, we would appreciate a response by July 14. If we do not receive a reply by then, I am afraid we may be unable to include information you provide in the published report.
Thank you very much for your consideration of our request and I look forward to remaining in contact with you.
Libertelli (via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
July 11, 2006
Subject: Human Rights Watch research your request for information from Skype
Dear Mr Adams,
Thank you for your email to Niklas with respect to the report you are writing. In relation to your questions, I can provide you with the following information:
Skype works hard to comply with all applicable local laws and regulations in countries where we do business. China is no exception. In China, we have a joint venture with TOM Online in which TOM is the majority shareholder. The JV offers a co-branded version of the Skype software called TOM-Skype. To comply with the government regulation, TOM Online is obliged to use a text filter in TOM-Skype. If a message is found to be unsuitable for delivery because of specific text, the message is simply not transmitted between the users. This is an automated process and operates solely on text chats. Voice communications is not a part of this process.
Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance,
Imogen Bailey Skype
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