Microsoft & Internet Freedom

Over the last few weeks, there has been much said about issues of security, privacy, and censorship as it relates to the Internet in China and around the world.  I want to reinforce the comments made by Craig Mundie last week, in response to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s important speech on Internet freedom. 

Microsoft is committed to protecting and advancing free expression throughout the world, even as we work to comply with local laws in the 100+ countries in which we operate.  In many countries throughout the world, Internet and technology companies must comply with laws that impact privacy and freedom of expression, particularly peaceful political expression.

In January 2006, Brad Smith announced on behalf of Microsoft a formal set of principles on how our company would address freedom of expression on the Internet, in a speech to European government leaders in Lisbon, Portugal.  Over the past four years, we have consistently adhered to these principles promoting freedom of expression. Microsoft’s executive leadership and Board of Directors have consistently supported these principles and remain fully committed to them today.

Similarly, we are proud to be co-founders of the Global Network Initiative, an organization dedicated to advancing Internet freedom, along with other leaders from industry, human rights organizations, academics, and socially responsible investors.  We hope that other technology companies will join this effort.  While individual GNI member companies may make different business decisions, we are united in our commitment to these principles and are working together to support and grow the important work of the GNI.

Engagement in China and around the world is very important to us, in part because we believe it accelerates access to 21st century technology and services and helps provide the widest possible range of ideas and information.  We have done business in China for more than 20 years and we intend to stay engaged, which means our business must respect the laws of China. That’s true for every company doing business in countries around the world: we are all subject to local laws.

At the same time, Microsoft is opposed to restrictions on peaceful political expression, and we have conversations with governments to make our views known.  In every country in which we operate, including China, Microsoft requires proper legal authority before we remove any Internet content; and if we remove content, we give users notice.

These steps – and others we take – are consistent with the principles we articulated in 2006, and also consistent with the guidelines developed by the Global Network Initiative.  We will continue to work with companies, organizations and governments around the world to advance these issues in the future.

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