Google, Microsoft, Yahoo Ally in Free Speech Push

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are expected to announce on Tuesday that they have agreed to a common set of principals on how to do business in nations that restrict free speech and expression, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The move by the Internet media and technology giants comes in the wake of criticism that they have helped enable censorship in those countries, the paper said.

Under the new principles, which were crafted over two years, the companies will promise to protect the personal information of their users wherever they do business and to “narrowly interpret and implement government demands that compromise privacy,” the Journal said.

They will also commit to scrutinizing a country’s track record of jeopardizing personal information and freedom of expression before launching new businesses in a country and to discuss the risks widely with their executives and board members, the paper said.

The document was crafted by a group of participants including human rights groups like Human Rights First and Committee to Protect Journalists, the Journal said.

Nonprofit groups like the Center for Democracy and Technology and Business for Social Responsibility also participated. The companies have agreed to have their compliance with the new principles monitored by independent experts, the paper said.

The plan has yet to receive the support of Internet companies in China and other countries whose policies it implicitly attacks, the Journal said.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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