Tearing down the great firewall

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Tearing down the great firewall

Amnesty International is calling for Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft to stop allowing the Chinese government to censor the Internet for its citizens.

The human rights group began campaigning during the 90-day countdown to the Beijing Olympics, touring around Australian cities with a visual representation of the 'great firewall' that is blocking full online access.

These events are meant to encourage visitors to the wall to help it 'tear it down' by removing individual bricks.

Visitors are also asked to sign a petition against what Amnesty believes is cooperation with Chinese government censorship by Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Chinese ISP’s Sohu and Baidu.

“The main focus of the campaign is that we don’t believe these companies should be assisting the Chinese government to censor the Internet from its citizens,” said Amnesty NSW community campaigner Jenny Leong.

“The campaign is to end Internet censorship in China, but focusing specifically on companies that are internationally recognised and people around the world to say that we expect more from those companies.”

One example of Internet companies 'assisting' the Chinese government is the case of Chinese journalist Shi Tao. In 2004, Shi wrote an email from his private Yahoo! account to a friend with a US blog about a memo from the Chinese government saying that journalists should not report on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

When the government found out about the correspondence, it asked Yahoo! to turn over the sender’s personal information. Yahoo! did so without asking questions, and Shi was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in jail, where he still sits.

Also, Leong mentioned that a Google image search of ‘Tiananmen Square’ in China provides a very different selection of images than in other countries.

“These are clear indications that these companies aren’t aware of what their corporate and social responsibilities are,” she said.

“They’re the kinds of things that many customers don’t know about and are clear ways where the companies could stop assisting the Chinese government in censoring its citizens.”

While the campaign isn’t calling for a boycott for the Olympics or the companies, Amnesty is asking people to get involved through the petition, online actions from its website uncensor.com.au, or even just an email to the web companies expressing concern.

Amnesty has collected 10,000 signatures through its tour of Australia, and hopes to collect about 15,000 more before presenting the five companies with the petitions late this year.

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