(Associated Press via NewsEdge) Internet search leader Google and other major US technology companies insisted that their products benefit Chinese citizens despite government restrictions and warnings that online censorship is spreading.
Providing some information is better than giving none at all, the companies said, but human rights groups warned that heavy filtering of Web content is increasing in developing countries, with some using China as a model.
China denied it censored Internet sites at all, saying criminal investigations are unrelated to freedom of expression.
Human rights groups have sharply criticized Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, along with Cisco, accusing them of helping the Chinese government restrict information and crack down on dissidents.
'We concluded that we would prefer to provide as much information to the Chinese people as we could through the Google search engines, in spite of the fact that we also are self-censoring material which the China government tells us we are not to exhibit,' said Vint Cerf, a Google vice president.
Fred Tipson, senior policy official at Microsoft, said state vigilance in China appeared to be strengthening.
'It is a point at which point you decide the Chinese people are worse off for having this service in their country,' he said.
Amnesty International said it was planning to deliver a petition on Internet freedom to organizers of the UN-organized Internet Governance Forum in Athens.
Rights groups and related agencies warned that online censorship is spreading globally among repressive governments.
Â© 2006 The Associated Press
Â© 2006 Dialog, a Thomson business. All rights reserved