Thursday, February 16, 2006

Internet giants get Washington grilling

Internet giants got one mama of a grilling yesterday from US lawmakers and were even compared with the use of IBM’s technology in the organisation of the Holocaust. Ouch.

And they were accused of “enthusiastically volunteering for China’s censorship brigade”. And worse. Both Republicans and Democrats seemed less than impressed with the company's desire to dive into bed with the Chinese and some of their less than impressive practices.

Most hard hitting was California congressman Tom Lantos, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, who asked each of the companies whether they felt “ashamed” and whether they would agree to discriminate against women if asked to by a repressive regime. Apparently the representatives for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco were left speechless by this one!

And they were the ones that I felt came out the worse. For the only response from the 4 corporates was that they were not entirely sure wether their Chinese policies were right or not and that they would welcome greater government direction.

What, leading tech companies welcoming government intervention into their business practices? Now that's a volt face if ever I've seen one. And in a world where corporate governance and corporate morales are increasingly valued, their responses looked naive and it times irresponsible.

It could well prove that the largest losers will end up being the Internet giants. And government legislation could well hamper their businesses in China yet provide a welcome veil to hide behind

All this China policy issue does sadly prove that certain business matters are still better done by government. Shame.

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