Google seeks help in fight against global internet censorship

Once relatively indifferent to government affairs, Google is seeking help inside the Beltway to fight the rise of web censorship worldwide, an Associated Press report said.


The Associated Press report said the online search giant is taking a novel approach to the problem by asking US trade officials to treat Internet restrictions as international trade barriers, similar to other hurdles to global commerce, such as tariffs.


Google sees the dramatic increase in government Internet censorship, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, as a potential threat to its advertising-driven business model, and wants government officials to consider the issue in economic, rather than just political, terms, the Associated Press report said.


'It's fair to say that censorship is the No. 1 barrier to trade that we face,' Andrew McLaughlin, Google's director of public policy and government affairs, was quoted as saying.

A Google spokesman said McLaughlin has met with officials from the US Trade Representative's office several times this year to discuss the issue, the Associated Press report said.


While human rights activists are pleased with Google's efforts to fight censorship, they harshly criticized the company early last year for agreeing to censor its web site in China, which has the second-largest number of Internet users in the world, the Associated Press report said.


The company defends its actions, saying the Chinese government made it a condition of allowing Chinese users access to Google Web pages. China has an Internet firewall that slows or disrupts Chinese users from accessing foreign uncensored web sites, the report said.


Censorship online has risen dramatically the past five years, belying the hype of the late 1990s, which portrayed the Internet as largely impervious to government interference, the report said.