GOOG fighting pension funds' anti-censorship proposal
New York pension funds are calling on Google and Yahoo to resist censorship and to stop hosting customer data in certain host countries. Rebecca MacKinnon points to the proposal in Google's notice of annual meeting and proxy statement for their 2007 sharedholder meeting, May 10 at the Googleplex.
The funds are making a similar proposal for Yahoo's meeting in June. (YHOO hasn't filed its 14A for that meeting yet.)
Google's board of directors is recommending that shareholders vote against this resolution at Google's May 10th shareholder meeting. They give no explanation why.
Here's the text of the proposal:
Whereas, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental human rights, and free use of the Internet is protected in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom to “receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”, and
Whereas, the rapid provision of full and uncensored information through the Internet has become a major industry in the United States, and one of its major exports, and
Whereas, political censorship of the Internet degrades the quality of that service and ultimately threatens the integrity and viability of the industry itself, both in the United States and abroad, and
Whereas, some authoritarian foreign governments such as the Governments of Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam block, restrict, and monitor the information their citizens attempt to obtain, and
Whereas, technology companies in the United States such as Google, that operate in countries controlled by authoritarian governments have an obligation to comply with the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and
Whereas, technology companies in the United States have failed to develop adequate standards by which they can conduct business with authoritarian governments while protecting human rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression,
Therefore, be it resolved, that shareholders request that management institute policies to help protect freedom of access to the Internet which would include the following minimum standards:
1) Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
2) The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
3) The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
4) Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
5) Users should be informed about the company’s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
6) The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.