Google board opposes Net censorship ban, human rights review

Shareholders to propose votes on both issues at May 8 annual meeting

Google's board of directors is opposing a ban on Internet censorship as well as the creation of a committee that would review the company's policies on human rights, according to the company's proxy statement filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and released publicly Tuesday.

At its annual meeting May 8, the board will recommend that shareholders vote against a proposal that would require the company to take steps to ensure freedom of access to the Internet. It also will advise a vote against a proposal calling for the company to form a committee to review its policies on human rights. The board, in the statement, did not give reasons for its positions.

The shareholder proposals were submitted separately by the Office of the Comptroller of New York City and St. Scholastica Monastery.

"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," the proposal states.

In a statement New York City Comptroller William Thompson said his office was calling on Yahoo and Google to establish policies to protect against the infringement of basic freedoms by countries in which they did business.

"Both Yahoo and Google are companies based on the fundamentals of user trust," he said in the statement. "By allowing these countries to censor the information the users receive, that trust is broken."

A spokesman for the comptroller said the same measure was filed last year and voted down by Google shareholders. The funds controlled by the comptroller's office hold 3,588,131 shares in Yahoo and 679,497 shares in Google.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.

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Linda Rosencrance

Computerworld

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