Saturday, May 10, 2008

Google Shareholders On Human Rights: Not So Much

The starting view in Google Earth. If one were to type in an address in Denver, Colorado, USA, one can zoom in and out from 1600 Curtis St. and watch it disappear into a satellite view of the Earth and then zoom back in as if one were falling onto 1600 Curtis St. from space; and if one were to click on "Forbidden City" in the "Sightseeing" column, one would see what it would look like to fly Superman-style from 1600 Curtis St. in Denver to the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, China. Image Credit: Google Earth™ mapping service via How Stuff Works

Google Shareholders On Human Rights: Not So Much

It wasn’t long ago when the business information and technology airwaves were filled with human interest stories about the emerging search engine powerhouse, Google, and how the company should be held out as an example of what a socially conscious corporate society should be.

The Google campus boasted a multitude of social services like gyms, flex-time, in-house medical services, an accommodating and understanding rules infrastructure with staffing to help employees with everyday human life problems … in short, a social/corporate wonderland.

Apparently, this commitment to recognize the plight of the human condition does not extend or apply outside of the walls of the corporate environment.

In recent votes on proposals that would have the search engine giant recognize and adhere to policies that would help to enforce human rights agendas, the shareholders voted down moves in taking a stand.

This excerpted from IDG News Service via Computerworld -

Google grilled on human rights
Google shareholders voted down two proposals that would have compelled the search giant to implement more stringent human rights policies

Nancy Gohring (IDG News Service) 09/05/2008 10:57:04

Google's shareholders, following the advice of the board, voted down two proposals on Thursday that would have compelled the search giant to
change its human rights policies, but the issue dominated the company's annual shareholder meeting nevertheless.

Sergey Brin in participation at a Web 2.0 Conference Q & A. Image Credit: James Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media, Inc. (2005) via Wikipedia

Sergey Brin, cofounder and president of technology for Google, abstained from voting on either of the proposals. "I agreed with the spirit of these proposals," Brin said. But he said he didn't fully support them as they were written, and so did not want to vote for them.
Google has come under fire for operating a version of its search engine that complies with
China's censorship rules. Google was criticized for launching a search service in 2006 aimed at Chinese users that blocks results considered objectionable to the Beijing government. Google argues that it's better for it to have a presence in the country and to offer people some information, rather than for it to not be active in China at all.

In March Google's board of directors indicated they opposed 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.
The proposal, presented by an Amnesty worker, suggested that Google institute a series of policies to protect freedom of access to the Internet. The policies should include using all legal means to resist demands for censorship, informing users when the company has complied with requests for censorship, and hosting information that can identify users only in countries that don't restrict the Internet.
Google is participating in an initiative to develop voluntary guidelines for how Internet companies should respond to censorship demands in countries like China, said Tony Cruz, the Amnesty International member who presented the proposal. While that's a step in the right direction, he said, Google still hasn't made any improvements since its launch in China.

"We've seen little more than talk and defensiveness from Google since the problems emerged," he said. "Nothing precludes Google from taking steps to ameliorate this problem while conversation about the standard goes on."

Harrington Investments submitted a related proposal that was also voted down. It would have created a human rights committee at Google to review the implications of company policies on human rights.

Brin defended Google's activities in China. "Google has a far superior track record than other search companies with respect to making information freely available," he said. He may have been referring to Yahoo, which turned over information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of a writer.
That explanation didn't seem to placate everyone in the room. Another Amnesty International member said he appreciates the difficulty of the situation in China, but Google hasn't gone far enough.

Reference Here>>

This lack of action toward the issue of human rights may give a whole new twist on the expression "Google Earth".

So what do we, at MAXINE, think about Google Corporation's recent activities and moves to absolve themselves from being a responsible player on the world's human rights front?

Ahhhh, Not So Much!

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