Google and Co preparing freedom of speech code

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft are preparing to sign up to a global code of conduct that will help them avoid criticism over issues such as freedom of speech in China.

According to the New York Times, which said it had seen a final draft of documents on the effort, it will be called the Global Network Initiative. Company signing up will commit to "avoid or minimise the impact of government restrictions on freedom of expression".

Google has been criticised in the past for cooperating with the Chinese government in censoring certain search terms when it launched a Chinese version of the site. Yahoo! has been taken to task by The World Organisation for handing over personal information to the Chinese government, which was used to convict dissidents.

The hope is that the new initiative will provide a forum for companies, along with human rights groups, to resist calls for censorship from governments, the New York Times reports.

Along with Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, Vodafone and France Telecom are reported to be considering taking part.

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