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Google's China move wakes Washington

January 15, 2010 |  8:46 am

Customers leave flowers, fruits at Google's headquarters in Beijing after the company threatened to leave China over the government's Internet policies
 
It was almost like Google provided world leadership while Washington slept.

One day after the Silicon Valley giant threatened to bolt from China over its Internet policies and alleged cyber-attacks, Washington meekly offered support.

Asked Thursday if Google's move could imperil relations with China, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "The president has strong beliefs about the universal rights of men and women throughout the globe. Those aren't carved out for certain countries."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was faster, and stronger, in her embrace of Google on Wednesday night. “The Chinese government operates one of the most sophisticated operations in the world to control the Internet," she said. "It is essential that technology companies not assist in efforts that violate human rights or prohibit the free exchange of ideas.”

Google customers in Beijing were more outspoken -- leaving flowers, fruits and even a bottle of booze at Google's headquarters. And pressure is building on the Washington to do more.

With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton planning a speech on Internet freedom next week, four Republican congressmen are calling on Pelosi to speed a bill through Congress requiring companies doing business with repressive countries to report all attempts to hack their systems.

"The Obama administration needs to be standing up" against repressive governments, said Virginia Republican Frank Wolf, who also criticized the Bush White House for catering to Beijing. "Instead, we've seen a muted response at best."

Calling Google's move "a game-changer" that could finally spur Washington to act, Wolf added: "If the Obama administration fails, they will quickly find themselves on the wrong side of history,"

Comparing Google's move to the stance by companies protesting apartheid by pulling out of South Africa, he added, "God bless Google. They have been willing to speak out."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Associated Press

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