WASHINGTON (CN) – The world’s largest domain name registrar announced Wednesday that it would no longer sell Chinese website addresses, following Google’s recent footsteps in a mounting battle pitting the largest internet companies against the largest internet regulator. “Google fired a shot heard ’round the world and now the second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people,” New Jersey Republican Chris Smith said.
Go Daddy, the domain name company, said during a meeting of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China that it would stop issuing domain names ending in China’s “.cn.” It cited new rules for registering and concern for the security of the individuals who buy domain names.
Smith said, “It is a powerful sign that American internet technology companies want to do the right thing in repressive countries.” He remarked that China has imprisoned at least 72 people for internet postings and said its repressive reach extends to countries like Cuba, Vietnam, Burma, Belarus, and Sri Lanka by giving those governments advice on regulation.
Go Daddy’s move comes two days after Google stopped censuring Chinese web searches, a move that had drawn harsh criticism from the Chinese government. Google has said the China’s censorship requirements violate its informal “Don’t be evil” slogan.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt had said the company had originally justified its censorship in China by adopting an evil scale, which allows small evils if it leads to greater good, but the company acknowledged that it was wrong in thinking its presence in China would liberalize the country.
Google has since directed mainland Chinese users to its Hong Kong site, which is exempt from censorship. While still part of China, Hong Kong operates under different laws. The government is now accusing Google of violating promises it made when entering the Chinese market in 2006 and has intervened in the links between the two Chinese systems to continue its censorship.
Google’s move signals the erosion of two months of negotiations between world’s most powerful internet company and China – a government that strictly regulates access to its 1.3 billion people. The talks began after the Google email accounts of Chinese human rights activists were broken into by sophisticated hackers, although the company has avoided directly accusing the Chinese government.
The company still plans to operate Gmail, its email service, and a research and sales division in China.
Chinese citizens have been laying food and flowers on the Google sign, creating a type of memorial outside of company’s office in Beijing.
Yahoo! has also pushed back, adopting policies to keep personally identification information out of the hands of repressive governments. The changes come after 2006, when the company cooperated with the Chinese government by giving it information on journalist Shi Tao. She was sentenced to a 10-year prison sentence after she forwarded Chinese orders that journalists not report on the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre – a deadly 1989 crackdown on protesters – to the U.S. government.
Smith has introduced legislation to determine Internet-restricting countries. And American IT companies would then be bared from keeping personally identifying information inside these countries, hindering those nations from tracking dissidents. Google and human rights groups have expressed support for the Global Online Freedom Act.
A similar bill has been introduced in the European Parliament.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was formed by Congress in 2000 to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit a yearly report to the president and Congress. It was formed when China as it joined the World Trade Organization and is composed of nine senators, nine House members, and five appointees of the president.
China has entered into agreements in global trade and to curb carbon emissions and the commission expressed concerned that the nation could repress environmental whistleblowers or that Chinese human rights abuses could fall under the jurisdiction of such agreements in other ways.