London-based rights group Amnesty International has kicked off its new irrepressible.info campaign against suppression of speech and freedom on the Internet with a strong opening shot, accusing U.S.-based Internet companies like Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and Yahoo of violating human rights by cooperating with Chinese government efforts to censor the Internet. Amnesty called on the companies to lobby for the release of Chinese cyber-dissidents who have been jailed for writings they’ve published and distributed via the Internet. Amnesty has also released a report (PDF) detailing the roles of Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo in China’s Internet censorship and repression policies.
For their part, Internet companies like Google and Yahoo have stood by the policy that they must abide by local laws and regulations when operating in a particular country, although Google in particular has seemed uncomfortable conforming to Chinese censorship requirements, opting not to offer selected services in China rather than have them subjected to state requirements, and relocating key servers outside the Chinese mainland. Yahoo has been a frequent focus of criticism from the global human rights community, following several instances in which information about Chinese users has been used as evidence in trials sentencing dissident writers to prison terms.