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Anti-Censorship Campaign Targets Microsoft, Google, Yahoo

Amnesty International on Sunday accused the world's Internet firms of colluding with repressive regimes to curtail online freedom.

The human rights group launched a campaign against Internet censorship, singling out Yahoo, Microsoft and Google for complying with Internet censorship in China.

"The Internet has become a new frontier in the struggle for human rights," said Kate Allen, director of Amnesty's British wing.

"Its potential to empower and educate, to allow people to share and mobilize opinion, has led to government crackdowns," she said.

Google has been criticized for cooperating with Chinese censors on its Chinese-language portal, Google.cn. Activists have criticized the company for blocking searches for material about Taiwan, Tibet, democracy and other sensitive topics.

Google says it has to accept the restrictions in order to serve China, which has the world's second-largest population of Internet users after the United States, with more than 111 million people online. The company says it believes its presence ultimately will force Chinese authorities to be more open.

Amnesty identified China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria as countries where people had been jailed for expressing views online of for challenging censorship of the Net. It highlighted the case of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for sending abroad an e-mail with notes about a government memo on media restrictions.

Yahoo's Chinese partner company was accused of helping the authorities identify Shi through his e-mail account.

Amnesty's online campaign, http://www.irrepressible.info, urges Internet users to sign a pledge for online freedom, and to include material which has been banned in states such as China, Syria, Iran and Vietnam on their Web sites.

The group plans to present the online pledges to a United Nations meeting on the future of the internet in November.

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