Ballmer: Microsoft Must Respect the Laws of China

The company will not follow Google’s example

Microsoft will not be joining Google in divorcing from China, according to remarks by the company’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer. In December 2009, Google and additional US-based companies found themselves under attack from China. The Mountain View-based search giant noted that the primary goal of the highly sophisticated and targeted attacks was to hack into Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, but that in the process, intellectual property belonging to the company had also been stolen. In the first half of January 2010, David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and chief legal officer, announced that Google was setting on a new course in its approach to China.

“These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China,” Drummond said at the time.

Following Google’s decision, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out and urged companies with international presences to treat countries that censor Internet freedom in the same manner as the Mountain View search giant. At that time, Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer noted that Microsoft too supports worldwide free expression and privacy on the Internet. Representatives of the Chinese government condemned Google’s new course of action, as well as the Clinton’s position, and denied that it was violating privacy or freedom of expression for its citizens.

Eyes turned to Microsoft since Google announced its move, along with questions inquiring whether Microsoft also pulls out from China. Ballmer noted in the past that Microsoft would stand its ground. According to independent reports, Microsoft was not among the companies targeted in the Chinese-based attacks from December 2009.

“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,” Ballmer stated.

“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,” he added.

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