<<previous  |  index  |  next>>

VI. Recommendations

To Internet companies working in China

  • Lobby and attempt to convince the Chinese government and its officials to end political censorship of the Internet.
  • Develop and adhere to a code of conduct that prohibits participation in or facilitation of infringements of the right to free expression, information, privacy, association, or other internationally recognized human rights (see Section V, Part 2).
  • Never turn over personal user information if it could lead to prosecution for protected expression. In order to minimize conflicts with Chinese law, companies should not store such data in China.
  • Never censor any material unless required by legally binding and written government request. The practice of proactively seeking and censoring search terms, words or phrases in blogs, chatrooms, online bulletin boards, and websites, as well as entire website addresses, crosses the line from being censored to becoming the censor, and must end immediately. There is an ethical difference between being censored and being the censor.
  • Use all legal means to resist demands for censorship of searches, blogs, web addresses, etc. Companies should only comply with such demands if they are made via legally binding, documentable procedures and the company has exhausted all reasonable legal means to resist them.
  • Document all cases in which content has been censored in compliance with legally binding government demands and make this information publicly available.
  • Make websites and email available to users to allow for secure communication via secure protocols such as https (an encrypted version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol “http,” the primary method used to convey and transfer information on the world wide web), IMAPS (a secure version of the Internet Message Access Protocol that allows a local client to access email on a remote server), and POPS (encrypted version of the Post Office Protocol commonly used by email services so that users can retrieve email from a remote server).

To investors in Internet companies

  • Press for ethical company practices and respect for users’ human rights on a global scale.
  • Insist on code of conduct and support legislation—and compliance with it—if companies fail to adopt and truly follow a code.

To International organizations including the WTO, OECD, and UN

  • Make a full study of the ways in which non-transparent censorship practices in countries such as China contribute to the lack of a level business playing field, and the extent to which censorship can be considered a barrier to trade.

To activists, human rights groups, nongovernmental organizations, charitable foundations, and other groups concerned with promoting global freedom of speech online

  • Work in concert with socially responsible businesses to develop technologies that will maximize privacy, ensure anonymity, and enable Internet users around the globe to circumvent Internet censorship, filtering, and blocking.
  • Conduct independent research and documentation of the ways in which companies are or are not complying with legislation and/or codes of conduct.
  • Provide clearing houses of information through which users can better inform themselves about the ways in which the products and services they use may be limiting their universally recognized right to free speech and privacy.

To users of the services and products of Internet companies

  • Make it known that the way users are treated in China and elsewhere is an indicator of companies’ respect for users’ rights globally.
  • Take companies’ human rights standards into account when deciding which products and services to purchase or use.

To the United States, European Union, Japan, and other countries with Internet-related companies operating in China

  • Support legislation of company behavior as described in Section V, Part 3 above, to regulate the conduct of such companies and prohibit their participation in or facilitation of infringements of the right to free expression, information, privacy, association, or other internationally recognized human rights.
  • Press companies to adopt a principled and effective code of conduct.
  • Press China to end all political censorship of the Internet and to stop pressuring companies to act as censors.
  • Press China to end the use of the criminal law against individuals on the basis of speech that would otherwise be protected under international law, and to release all such Internet prisoners.

To the Chinese Government

  • End all censorship of internationally protected expression on the Internet.
  • Cease putting pressure on or ordering companies to engage in censorship.
  • End all criminal actions against individuals using the Internet for peaceful political and religious expression.
  • Create formal, well-documented and legally transparent processes by which content censorship requests are made to companies, formal written procedures by which companies can challenge or respond to censorship requests, and formal, transparent legal procedures by which members of the Chinese public can safely and fairly challenge the legality of any act of censorship without fear of reprisal.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>August 2006