Amnesty International Goes After Microsoft
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MICROSOFT IN HUMAN RIGHTS ROW
By Nick Mathiason
Sunday, February 1, 2004
Technology sold by Microsoft to the Chinese government has been used by
Beijing to censor the internet, and resulted in the jailing of its political
An Amnesty International report has cited Microsoft among a clutch of
leading computer firms heavily criticised for helping to fuel 'a dramatic
rise in the number of people detained or sentenced for internet-related
The human rights group has slated Bill Gates's company for an 'inadequate
response' to escalating abuses in China. 'We don't believe this is
appropriate or responsible,' said Mark Allison, an Amnesty International
researcher who wrote the report. '[Microsoft] should be more concerned about
human rights abuses and should be using its influence to lift restrictions
on freedom of expression and get people out of prison. It is worrying that
they don't seem to have raised these issues.'
Amnesty believes Microsoft is in violation of a new United Nations Human
Rights code for multinationals which says businesses should 'seek to ensure
that the goods and services they provide will not be used to abuse human
China is the world's most aggressive censor of the internet. Websites are
banned for using words such as 'Taiwan', 'Tibet', 'democracy', 'dissident'
and 'human rights'. Amnesty has recorded dozens of cases of political
opponents jailed for circulating material offensive to the Chinese
Microsoft told The Observer: 'We are focused on delivering the best
technology to people throughout the world. However, how that technology is
used is with the individual and ultimately not in the company's control.'
Since China was admitted to the World Trade Organisation two years ago a
succession of big US technology firms have been supplying the government.
Internet use in China is close to 80 million, though this is less than 10
per cent of the adult population.
Nortel Networks said in September 2003 it plans to invest $200 million in
the next three years to strengthen its research and development capabilities
Cisco Systems, which has also been named in the Amnesty report, has in the
past denied that it tailors products for the Chinese market and has said:
'If the government of China wants to monitor the internet, that's their
business. We are politically neutral.' But Allison said: 'In terms of the
internet the Chinese government is arresting people who are doing nothing
more than expressing themselves.'
It was confirmed last week that Gates is to receive an honorary knighthood.
The firm is embroiled in tough negotiations over supply of software to the
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